BALI CULTURE INFORMATION

 

 
 
The Island Of Bali, Indonesia

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THE HIGH PRIESTS AND THE BRAHMANIC
RITUAL

The priest has first to purify himself thoroughly by reciting mantras for each action of his morning toilet. He washes his hair, rinses his mouth, polishes his teeth, and rinses his mouth again; washes his face, bathes, rubs his hair with oil, combs it, and then dresses. For each move he has to recite a short mantra, one for each garment he wears.

Meantime on a high platform his wife has arranged his paraphernalia (upakara) : trays with flowers (night-blooming flowers if the ceremony is to take place at night) , gold or silver vessels containing grains of rice and sandalwood powder, his holy-water container (siwamba) with a silver sprinkler (sesirat) and a longhandled ladle, (tjanting) , his prayer bell (gantha) , an incensebuner (pasepan) , and a bronze oil lamp ( pedamaran) .

Put away in baskets at one side of where the priest will sit are the atributes of Siwa he will wear during the ceremony: the bawa, a bell-shaped mitre of red felt with applications of beaten gold and topped by a crystal ball, the " shimmer of the sun " (suyra kanta ) , and a number of strings of genitri seeds (ear-rings, bracelets, neck and breast beads) ornamented with pieces of gold set with linggas of crystal, phallic symbcls.

Once seated cross-legged among the upakara, the priest proto purify his person; he lays a prayer cloth over his lap and with his hands on his knees he mumbles a formula and asks Batara Siwa to descend into the water-vessel and into his . He stretches his hands over the incense smoke, uncovers the tray in front of him, and mumbles the mantra asta mantra, the hand-cleansing formula, rubs the palms of his hands with a flower and sandalwood powder, " wiping out impurity," and recites formula for each finger as it is passed over the palm of hand, taking flowers which he holds over the incense smoke and then flinging them away saying: " Be happy, be perfect, be glad in your heart."

To induce trance, the priest uses pranayama, breath control. closing each nostril alternately with a finger, breathing deeply. and holding his breath as long as possible, then exhaling through the other nostril. With a blade of grass he inscribes the sacred ong in the holy water, prays again with a flower which he drops into the water-container, then takes his bell in the left hand and strikes the clapper three times with another flower held in his right hand. Now his breath, his voice, and his spirit (idep) are in unison with the deity.

The priest proceeds, mumbling his guttural prayers, ringing the bell alternately with swift, intricate gestures of the hands and fingers, taking flowers at intervals, dropping them into the holy water or holding them over the lamp and the incense, and flinging them away. He rings the bell louder and quicker and stops suddenly.

During these preliminaries he gives signs of the oncoming trance; he gasps, his eyes roll back, and his movements take on a tense, unearthly air. Now the deity is within him and he sprinkles holy water and flings flowers, not away, but towards himself. He touches his forehead, throat, and shoulders with sandalwood powder and puts on the attributes of Siwa: he ties a long blade of alang alang grass around his head; wears the beads over his ears, across his breast, and on his wrists, and places his red and gold mitre on his head.

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