Ogoh-ogoh!

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Today is Tawur Kesanga, a holy day before Nyepi where Ogoh-ogoh, colorful, large paper machier monsters which embody the evil spirits that surround our environment and require purging from our lives, are paraded down the main streets and then burned to release the negative energy. The small lanes of Ubud are lined with Ogoh-ogoh, being primped and prepared with final touches for the evening ceremony. Excitement fills the air.

I am graced with an offering ritual at a local temple where women in traditional garb (lace tops tied with satin sashes) and men with head scarves and longis sit in front of an elaborate altar of fruits, rice, and flowers as the priests summon prayers and instructions. Blessed water is drizzled on my head as I kneel with the crowd. My Bahasa Indonesian may be poor but everything feels sacred and wonderful still.

Ubud is completely magical. There are omnipresent altars, even in restaurants. And gorgeous rice paddies are interspersed through the town.

I sit for lunch and enjoy a local specialty of (vegan) gado-gado…blanched long beans, cabbage, bok choy, snap peas, carrots, bitter melon, and crunchy tofu coated with a mildly spicy peanut dressing and garnished with crispy onions, cucumbers, and tapioca crackers before heading out to explore the streets a bit more. Delish.

All meet in the middle of town to partake in the exorcism ceremony. At sunset the giant Ogoh-ogoh parade through Ubud accompanied with gamelan music. Boys of all ages carry the bamboo based monsters as the ladies hold torches of holy fire. Many of the Ogoh-ogoh stem from traditional Balinese folk tales with huge teeth, scary eyes, and wild rasta hair. The Ogoh-ogoh are carried down to the football field at the edge of town where they are set ablaze to rid all of the Bhuta Kala, the evil spirits, for the upcoming year. Everyone is present, tourists and locals alike.

The street lights are already turned off in preparation for the following day of Nyepi, a day where the entire island of Bali is silent. It is the Balinese version of Yom Kippur (yet one is allowed to eat lightly but only food prepared in advance. No cooking is permitted).

Quietly I head to bed.

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