Odalan – Anniversary of Bali Temples

A Series of Celebration in Balinese Temples

Bali is called the island of Gods for a reason. It has more than ten thousand temples have been built all over the island until today. These temples are categorized into several classifications: 9 temples of Kahyangan Jagat, 714 temples of Dang Kahyangan, 4.368 temples of Kahyangan Tiga, water temples, sea temples, village temples and uncountable family temples.

Each of the temples in Bali has their regularly-scheduled festival which is set by an old Balinese calendar system called Pawukon. In that sense, almost every day there will be a festival held throughout the island as the number of temples are plenty. Odalan commonly occurs right during the full moon day or “Purnama”. This festival lasts for three days, but for significant temples, it can extend to a week or even ten days.

Before the odalan festival, the temple will be cleaned, repaired and decorated. It is not only a special day to deliver prayers or worship, but other cultural events also will be held. Sacred dances, shadow puppet shows and a parade of Balinese women in traditional clothes presenting a mountain of offerings on their head are ready to perform.

When it’s about time, worshippers start entering the temple; Balinese are commonly praying together with their family. After presenting the offering at the altar, women will join with other families who have already saved a place to sit on the ground. There is no chair or mat provided by the temple for the worshippers. People are using their sandals as the cushion; men are sitting in crossed legs while women are sort of in kneeling position. The ceremony is about to start, so they prepare canang sari in front of each family member and burn the incense stick. Soon the priest will lead the ceremony by reading some holy prayers, and sometimes he will ring his bell (genta). The prayers last for fifteen to twenty minutes, and worshippers will start to take flowers from canang sari. They will swirl it above the smoke of burned incense, then tuck it in between fingers while making an adoration gesture by placing both hands palms together in front of their forehead. After that, the flower will be placed on their ears. This ritual will be repeated several times using different colours of flowers taken from their canang sari until finished. After prayers, the people who are in charge of giving services at the temple (they are called Jero/ Jro) are distributing holy water to all of the attendants. The water will be dripped-off into the worshipper’s hand palms three times. They will sip the water three times and apply the remaining water to their face. Last one, the worshippers will be offered to take a wet rice from a small plate, and they will paste some of it on their forehead, and eat a small amount of it.

After all the prayers are done, people will stand up and have free time. Some will go home directly, but some of them are staying on the other side of the temple. Next to the central area of the temple, there will be a pavilion or large open hall as the place for sacred art performances. Some young boys will start to join in a gamelan group and play Balinese songs, the dance performance like Baris dance or barong dance will be shown to entertain all the worshippers and godly guests during the special day. The event will keep going until evening, with a shadow puppet show as the headline. Every temple will have its own performances depending on the local traditions and community.

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