Hendrata Wisnu (chief of the Indonesian Hindu Religious Council, Klaten) mentioned that Melasti is the ritual which cleanses the souls. He said, “because water is the source of life and a tool to wash the dirt away”. But he also said that the ritual must not be performed at the beachside.
Ngrundul, a village located in kebonarum of Klaten, is the auspicious place where Melasti is performed.
This year on March, 11th, thousands of Hindus could be seen gathered at Kalten. The Melastiritual was marked as the beginning of the ceremony. This is arranged before Nyepi which is popularly known as Hindu Day of Silence. This will be celebrated on March 17th.
Umbul Geneng was the place chosen by Hindus to perform Melasti. Instead of the beach, they chose this place because it is considered as the spot of holy water which will cleanse the devotees. The place is situated at a short distance from Tirta Buwana temple. Before 2006, they were performing this at Ngobaran Beach in Gunungkidul, Yogyakarta.
The highlights of the ceremony are:
- On Sunday, Hindus march for about two kilometers from Tirta Buwana temple towards Umbul Geneng situated in Klaten (Central Java).
- During this, holy water is splashed over a Hindu woman devote. She wears a mask which denotes the presence of evil. Holy water is splashed over her.
- Some of the devotees walk towards Umbul Geneng in Klaten (Central Java).
- Hindus devote offerings at Umbul Geneng in Klaten. This denotes the initiation of Nyepi which will be held on March 17th.
- The whole ceremony and parade are enjoyed with gamelan Baleganjur. Distinct types of offerings such as “gunungan makanan” is offered. A plethora of cone-shaped offerings is made during the ceremony. Other items were, fruits, chicken and “pratimas”.
Melasti is a purification ceremony which is performed by Hindu Balinese. According to the dates of Balinese calendar, it is performed many days before the arrival of Nyepi. This is a special occasion for Hindus living in Indonesia. The ritual holds special purpose of cleaning away all the impurities, filth and sin of demise and ill-karma. The ritual has a special symbolic act involved which is called as “Tirta Amerta” (the water of life).
The ceremony is exclusively performed near the beach because this way, all the bad things are thrown into the sea. Since ocean hold water and water is the source of life (Tirta Amrita), it holds a special meaning of Hindus. Prayers are sung with complete devotion at the temple. All Pratima or pralingga are cleaned and placed back at sacred equipment in the temple.
Upon the arrival and devoting the offerings, Hindus sit and chant prayers. Some of the most sung prayers are Mendak, Mecaru, Labuhan, and Betara. They receive pure holy water and pray in one voice. After the prayer is complete, all the devotees receive the holy splash of pure water and rice. In their dialect, rice is called as bija. This is considered as a pure symbol of happiness and prosperity.
Balinese Hindus consider Melasti equally important to Nyepi, which is the Day of Silence. Actually, the day is marked as the new year according to Hindu Saka calendar.
According to the schedule, Nyepi will be officially performed on Saturday, March 17th. During this, all devotees are expected to stay indoors and must not use electricity, do any work and even perform any entertainment. This is more like a time for self-reflection.
As they think that, evil spirits come out at the time of New Year, this is a trick to make them believe that Bali is a deserted place.