World's Best Festival
Balinese calander tracks lunar pattern, similar to what Islamic and Chinese ones do although with different starting points. In 2011, the local New Year (Year 1933) had to fall on March 5, whereas the Hijri (Year 1432) and the Sino (Year 4708) calendars had already started on December 7 and February 3, respectively.
The majority of the residents follow Hinduism in the otherwise Muslim Indonesia. Hindusim in Bali is a different and a more primitive version of the religion as compared to the Indian one probably because of its intermingling with Buddhism and Animism. Unlike India, temples - called Pura - are mostly open air compounds and may also be found inside a house or along side a paddy field. The religion is mostly interwoven in perfomring arts and ubiquitous rituals which keeps the primitivity alive.
Balinese New Year is one such ritual consists of two contrasting events; Ogoh-Ogoh parades, which is all about noise and craziness and the converse Nyepi Day, which is all silence and peace.
Go as Balinese Go
The cozy ambiance of Villa Purnama was just perfect to provide us with a peaceful sleep after a happening day yesterday and to make us ready for the fun to come.
After the late breakfast Putu handed over the motorbike keys with a brief coaching session for the basic self-start bike. As a trial, I made a round to the nearby market, which reminded me of good old college days when I used to have a 100cc Kawasaki! But for Urooba, that was the first time and she was both excited and concerned.
|The motorbike experience in Bali|
|Motorbikes: The way to go in Bali|
All was set to start our Bali experience so we left the guesthouse for Sanur area’s McDonalds to meet Hendra and fellows, who invited us to participate live in the festival!
The whole island was in the seventh heaven preparing for the crazy evening. Our first motorbike experience, aorund clean narrow streets surrounded by green paddy fields, could not be any better amid the festivities and a sweet drizzling with the gentle breeze!
Men and women were roaming around in their traditional white clothes, children were busy giving Ogoh-Ogoh final touches, police in their typical black attire was controlling the traffic anticipating the festival, and temples were being decorated with the exceptional splendor!
|Ogoh Ogoh: The Red Devil|
|Ogoh Ogoh: They may be Animals!|
|Ogoh Ogoh: an aged one|
|Ogoh Ogoh: ready to destroy!|
|Ogoh Ogoh: Its coming!|
|Ogoh Ogoh: this one looks harmless!|
|Ogoh Ogoh: devils mela|
|Ogoh Ogoh: blood thirsty!|
It looked like that there is a competition among residents, especially among youngsters, to craft the creepiest one! By doing the ritual, as per local myths, they intend to invite evil forces to their island! Think that Balinese are devil’s lovers? No, in fact they would bamboozle them with their next trick, called Nyepi! Yes, the next day, i.e. the New Year, all the islanders go in hiding to mislead those fiends as if there is no one living there and the island will be spared for another year!
A Balinese Home
Not surprisingly, we were the last to join the multihued troupe, at the meeting point, which included a Dutch couple on their university swap, an Indonesian-Dutch girl Rénia Sastrowidjojo on her work break, a Tunisian guy Khalil who was running away from the blood filled revolution back home, an American girl teaching English in Bali, Hendra’s friend Adi, and a couple of other energetic folks.
There are separate compounds for kitchen, common area, bedrooms, bathrooms, etc. Taking the advantage of being the eldest sibling, affable Hendra occupies the bedroom usually designated for parents!
|Me wrapping sarung in Hendra's Home|
|Hendra's father performing rituals|
|Offerings made from colourful plants|
|Offerings decorated intricately|
|Basket outside home for the offerings|
|Hendra's mother explaining the ritual|
|Renia testing Bhasa!|
While we were busy in exchanging notes with his father, his equally hospitable mother helped female travelers in wrapping up colorful sarongs and then we headed to the local community center, where the carnival was about to start. Every Banjar, a central community worship place, had been represented by a group of youngsters wearing identical shirts and carrying their deftly created Ogoh-Ogoh mounted on especially made bamboo carts. Before the procession, a formal ceremony was held; a man circumambulate the sacred stone with a torch in his hands while the priest recited the holy book and then the nuns sprinkled sanctified water on the participants.
|Ogoh Ogoh: its heavy|
|Rituals start in the Banjar|
|Attending the ceremony|
|Nun sprinkiling the sacred water|
|The ceremony concludes|
|The torch guy|
|Posing for the camera!|
|Ogoh Ogoh: I am not scared!|
|Leaders in white; Hendra (second from the right)|
|The Red Brigade|
|Ogoh Ogoh: Procession starts|
|Ogoh Ogoh: coming closer|
|Ogoh Ogoh: Troupe in black|
Came the savior, Adi - Hendra’s trusted friend and a local Couch Surfer - as the guest cast was surrounded by one of the intimidating devils; hunger! He took all foreigner visitors to a nearby Makaan, a local roadside hotel for the dinner.
Modus operandi at the restaurant was somewhere in between the ala carte and the buffet. A variety of dishes, from vegetable to meat, were on the display, as in any buffet and can be chosen in any combination. But one can order only once, for a given price. The price depends on what and how many types of curry one adds to the rice; egg being the cheapest while fish one was the most expensive. Feel of the food was quite different what we experienced with Hadi in Singapore. Most importantly, and to our surprise, it was spicy and rich in taste, very close to Indian cuisine, so much so that the Dutch guy could not survive even the quarter plate!
On our way back, we noticed the police had started putting barricades on the road due to the Neype next day. It also started raining heavily as soon as we departed the ways but we reached back to the gueshouse safely at around midnight where Putu and the other staff was standing outside the villa worried about crazy us!