2011 Melasti

I attended the first Melasti ceremony back in 2008 during my first year in Bali (or second for I was moving here in August 2007). But it was a little bit different from the Melasti this year. 3 years ago I came just a little bit too late, at the closing of the ceremony when sunset was already approaching and there was only happy, happy celebration. This year I witnessed so much more.

I went to Petitenget beach, the closest temple from my place which was about 2 minutes ride by scooter. That was as soon as I read somebody's status on Facebook, saying that the roads were closed almost everywhere due to the parades. I could also hear the continuous Balinese gamelan in the distance. So I just took a quick shower and grabbed my camera and went there.

I couldn't even park near the temple. So I parked next to some hotel and walked to the beach temple. Guess what? There was even a big jam walking. As usual, people wouldn't give way to the others and various vehicles were stuck in the middle of the roads facing all directions. The Pecalang got a bit pissed and started being rude to the street users, including those who walked.

Anyway, the source of the madness was not that far away from there. I could immediately see the beautiful colourful parades consisting of Balinese Hindus, young and old, most of whom were wearing sunglasses due to the bright sun.
The parades
I struggled to get to the beach among the thousands of people there. And when I was finally there, I couldn't get enough of so many photo opportunities. I also felt this strange feeling about the ceremony. A mixture of amazed and scared at the so many people, men and women, being in the state of trance. It is believed that during this purification ceremony (Melasti), the Gods are coming down to earth and possessing some of the bodies of the followers. From what I saw, most that took the girls made them scream and run towards the sea, sometimes dancing or crying. Some of her friends and relatives would follow her bringing holy water for her and then praying for her until she came back to normal.
Girl having trance
Th men were either having the same act like the girls, or more often having Ngurek, the act of stabbing themselves with a keris, traditional knife, as they were taken by the Gods or spirits. It is also believed that since they are in trance and another power is taking over the body, it gives them more power so that the keris stabbed into the body will not hurt them. Like they were immuned from that. I met my next door neighbour, Anders, an hour later and we discussed if it was for real. And I decided that it might be real stabbing since I could see holes in the places they stabbed themselves in their white shirts.
Man in trance stabbing his head with 2 keris.

Man in trance stabbing his chest with a keris.

Man in trance stabbing his chest with a keris.

Man in trance trying to stab himself with a keris.
The others were anticipating this act.
Even though it could sound and look depressing to see this ceremony, the real treat was from the children brought to the ceremony. They seemed to be so smiley and happy (probably due to the day off from school). The younger children would cry as their parents wash their face with the sea water. But the older ones were so eager to participate in the happening. Like these flag boys.
Balinese boys carrying flags that symbolize different Gods
Melasti was really one of the most interesting ceremonies and cultures in Bali that one wouldn't want to miss out. I missed the last 2 Melasti ceremonies because I had to work. So I felt pretty blessed that now I worked for myself and that I could manage my own time.



  1. Aaaaaaaaaa!!!! Nice pictures La!
    I love the boys with flags :) Each flag can be intriguing for me :)
    Yeah,..the trance part would be the last thing i wanna see X(

  2. Carla, nice photos! And those men really stabbing themselves? Wow! Maybe we can go together next time, I want to see it!

  3. @pyor: yes the flag boys were super cool. but the trance was not less cool than them. it was in fact the highlight of the ceremony.

    @eva: yes, we absolutely can. next year, two or three days before Nyepi we should go to one of the beaches for this Melasti ceremony. I'm not sure how big the ceremony is in Ubud since there is no sea in close distance. or perhaps the Ubudians go to some lake or river? anyway, let's see next year! :)