Transcendent Bali


POSTED: Sunday, April 12, 2009

There are many tropical isles, but what makes Bali unique is its age-old Hindu culture and spirituality. Visitors to the “;Morning of the World”; can participate in a Melukat, or Balinese karma cleansing ceremony. This purification process, presided over by a pemangku (Hindu priest), seeks ablution for the body and soul and is offered to guests at the private temple of the Four Seasons at Sayan, located near the famed artists' village of Ubud.






        » Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan: (800) 819-5053; www.fourseasons.com/sayan/. For reservations at both of Bali's Four Seasons, email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

        » Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay: (800) 819-5053; www.fourseasons.com/jimbaranbay/

» Parigata Villas Resort: www.parigatahotelsbali.com/?page_id=29.


Getting around
        » Panorama Tours: www.panorama-tours.com.




During this rite of passage I'm barefoot and garbed in a Balinese sarong, turban and white shirt. The religious shrine is located off a main road at the expansive resort of rolling hills and rivers, up a long flight of stone steps through the verdant, lush jungle. Is this the path to enlightenment?

An offering of flowers lies before the temple's brick entranceway, flanked by rock statues depicting gods from the Eastern pantheon and palm fronds. A resort staffer explains that the woven leaves of the coconut tree point downward to remind humans of the importance of being, literally, down to earth and humble. Inside the holy place, a 60ish man clad in white from head to toe in a turban, Nehru jacket and sarong sits cross-legged on a plaited pandanus (palm mat) in front of a table laden with fruit and flower offerings to the gods, burning incense and chanting in Balinese or Sanskrit. Black and white checkered umbrellas—signifying the duality of good and evil, the eternal struggle between the forces of light and darkness—stand near the temple's intricately carved altar, depicting floral designs, Hindu deities and barongs (magical spirits).

The mustachioed high priest rises, sporting a flower behind his right ear and grains of rice on his forehead, holding in both hands a bowl with a frangipani floating in water. My hands, feet, face and mouth are washed as the pemangku proceeds to chant, bang a mini-gong, sprinkle me with water from the bowl, blow incense smoke toward me and ring a brass bell. I drink some holy water; rice is placed on my forehead. The guru and I face one another, our hands clasped in prayer.

At the conclusion of this exotic ritual, the priest ties a piece of string, benang sidatu, around my wrist to remind me of this soul washing. During this pilgrim's progress in Bali I wear the string until it falls off of its own accord, representing the seeker's quest for balance and harmony. Literally and figuratively, the Melukat ceremony gives visitors a taste of Bali's renowned transcendentalism.