A visit to Bali must in­clude tak­ing in a tem­ple cer­e­mony.

Re­li­gious cer­e­monies take place any­where at any time in Bali. You will find var­i­ous forms of rit­u­als in many places, be they at tem­ples or on beaches.

The Jakarta Post - Magazine - - Contents - Words Ra­ditya Margi • Pho­tos Ra­ditya Margi/Jak­Post Travel

One of the most reg­u­larly ob­served rit­u­als is the Hindu cer­e­mony of Odalan. Gen­er­ally speak­ing Odalan is a fes­ti­val to ob­serve a tem­ple’s an­niver­sary. Most of the peo­ple ob­serve Odalan for re­li­gious rea­sons rather than an oc­ca­sion for mer­ri­ment.

With 4,539 tem­ples around the is­land, as recorded by the Re­li­gious Af­fairs Min­istry in 2011, mul­ti­ple Odalan rit­u­als hap­pen ev­ery day – you do the math.

Re­cently, I got the chance to at­tend an Odalan held by the fam­ily of Ida Ba­gus Rai Su­jana. It was a small cer­e­mony since the tem­ple, lo­cated at their hous­ing com­plex on Jl. Danau Ber­atan, is pri­vately owned by Rai Su­jana’s ex­tended fam­ily.

De­spite that fact, the Odalan turned out to be quite a lav­ish cer­e­mony.

The process of Odalan in a pri­vate tem­ple usu­ally lasts all day. The es­sen­tials of the rit­ual are a Hindu pri­est, game­lan play­ers, of­fer­ings, dancers and meals for the con­gre­ga­tion mem­bers.

Rel­a­tives gather early to pre­pare the cer­e­mony. While wait­ing for the pri­est, they set up their of­fer­ings at the al­tar; each fam­ily brings their own of­fer­ings. A cou­ple of men take turns in recit­ing prayers on a mi­cro­phone.

Given the spe­cial oc­ca­sion,

of­fer­ings made for Odalan are more sump­tu­ous than those served on a daily ba­sis. Of­fer­ings for Odalan could con­tain money – usu­ally Rp 1,000 (10 US cents) to Rp 2,000 – and other things like grilled chicken or a roast pig.

As the sun rises, the large amount of of­fer­ings brought by the rel­a­tives turn the small tem­ple into a sea of of­fer­ings, leav­ing barely enough space for all the peo­ple to sit down and pray.

At around 3 p.m., the pri­est ar­rives to lead the rit­ual. With the com­mon oc­cur­rence of mul­ti­ple Odalans in one day, book­ing a pri­est is nec­es­sary. You can­not al­ways ex­pect the pri­est to come early as he must go to sev­eral lo­ca­tions.

For­tu­nately, Rai Su­jana’s un­cle is a pri­est him­self, so this mat­ter was eas­ier to han­dle.

Dur­ing Odalan, the pri­est sanc­ti­fies a few or­na­ments which later are car­ried into ev­ery cor­ner to give bless­ing. Af­ter that, he leads a mass prayer for the con­gre­ga­tion.

Af­ter the mass prayer, the con­gre­ga­tion will take a break and have a feast be­fore con­tin­u­ing the fes­ti­val. This break usu­ally oc­curs in the late af­ter­noon, while the Odalan will last un­til late at night.

“Odalan is usu­ally held once or twice ev­ery year, de­pend­ing on the ca­pa­bil­ity of the fam­ily,” said Ida Pedanda Gede Giri Oka, the pri­est that led Rai Su­jana fam­ily’s Odalan.

Many tem­ples use the Saka cal­en­dar (Ba­li­nese cal­en­dar), which con­sists of 210 days a year. This means Odalan takes place twice in a Gre­go­rian cal­en­dar year.

“The essence of Odalan is ac­tu­ally not about cel­e­brat­ing the an­niver­sary of the tem­ple. It is a time to show our ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the almighty. The tra­di­tion of do­ing it dur­ing the tem­ple’s an­niver­sary is a cul­tural habit,” ex­plained Pedanda Gede Giri Oka.

Rai Su­jana said that Odalan was just one of nu­mer­ous rit­u­als to show ap­pre­ci­a­tion and grat­i­tude to the almighty and the spir­its.

“Peo­ple might won­der why Ba­li­nese spend so much time on our rit­u­als – in­clud­ing the serv­ing of daily of­fer­ings – but it is sim­ply our way of show­ing ap­pre­ci­a­tion to the almighty and the sur­round­ing spir­its,” he said.

“As op­posed to many other cul­tures, we do not re­gard the spir­its as some­thing to be afraid of. We em­brace and re­spect them,” he added.

The Odalan at Rai Su­jana’s tem­ple might be small and pri­vate, but if you are ea­ger to wit­ness a sim­i­lar rit­ual, choose a big­ger tem­ple. Pura Be­sakih, the mother tem­ple in the is­land, has a week­long fes­ti­val to ob­serve its Odalan.

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