Posted on Mar 21st, 2012 by Allison (Bali, Spiritual / Religion, Travel)

I’ve been in Bali almost two weeks, and have had so many rich experiences. You’re probably thinking that nothing could equal my birthday surprise, but you’d be mistaken…

Balinese practice their own unique form of Hinduism. There are over 11,000 temples and more than a million Hindu shrines on the island. My son Brandon will be writing a bit about this on his blog soon.

We expressed an interest in learning more about the rituals and meanings that are such an integral part of Balinese daily life – and so the language school arranged something very special for us.

Along with our tutor, Daniel, to translate, we were going to not only observe, but participate in the Melukat ritual. We had no idea what that was, or what we’d be doing, but we were excited.

Appropriate attire (sarong, belt and sleeved shirt) is required within the temple, and our wonderful staff shared their own sarongs, belts and a beautiful kebaya (top) for Jennifer to wear. We were told to bring a change of clothing, since we may be getting wet.

We drove to Tirta Empul Temple and were met by Mangku Putu, a priest with a light spirit and hearty laugh who had offered to take us through the Melukat. He had thoughtfully prepared offerings on our behalf (which is good, since we would not have known what we should bring/do.)

He first took us to pray before the banyan tree (which holds the spirits) to ask permission to enter the temple.

We sat before a shrine, with our offerings of incense and flowers before us. Mangku lit incense and placed some offerings on the shrine, then prayed with us and led us through the first ritual. It began with rubbing a flower in our palms to cleanse our hands. I had no idea a flower made such a great hand cleanser.

Then (I hope I’m remembering this correctly) a small piece of pink/white flower held in prayer, then placed behind the right ear. Then a mix of colored flowers, held in prayer, then placed behind the left ear. Then mixed flower colors, held in prayer and placed on our heads.

Then we cupped our hands over the incense to cleanse them with fire, then hands in prayer. Mangku repeated prayers and squirted some of the very best local alcohol on the ground for the mother god (earth). She gets mad if he uses the cheap stuff 🙂 He then placed more of our offerings on the alter – and we made our way through the gates and into the temple.

We learned that not only were we going to be getting wet, we would practically be bathing – and should have brought a second sarong and shirt to wear into the water. Oops. Fortunately, they had sarong and belt to rent at the temple. We (women) were a bit more bare than most devotees, but were not about to let that hold us back 🙂

Don’t we look lovely in our improvised sarong styling for entering the pool?

As if we didn’t stand out enough with our whiter than white and barer than everyone else skin, I just had to make a grand entrance. The step into the pool was quite far – Brandon held my hand from in the pool and Daniel, our tutor, helped me from the top.

Unfortunately, I didn’t notice that the step didn’t extend all the way to the wall and my foot slipped into the narrow opening…. and I fell backwards into the pool, pulling Daniel with me. It was a bit embarrassing, but everyone was very kind – we weren’t hurt, and I was just grateful my sarong stayed on!

Melukat ceremony is a ritual to cleanse the body – both spiritually and physically, from our present life as well as past lives – from negative elements by washing the body in holy water that flows from a beautiful fresh water spring inside the temple. Devotees are supposed to do this twice monthly – once at the spring, and once at the ocean. (Being Balinese Hindu takes a great deal of time, money and commitment!)

There are many fountains pouring from the spring into the pool (which also contains koi), and each one has a different purpose/meaning.

We proceeded to make our way to the first of 15 fountains from which we would cleanse ourselves that day.

Mangku went first to make our offering, and then explained that the first fountain is to cleanse the mind. When it was my turn, I paused before it and offered up an intention for mental purification, then proceeded to place my head completely in the fountain 3 times – and then moved to the end of the line for the next fountain.

As we went from fountain to fountain, I came to understand that we were working our way through cleansing each chakra. At the fountain for the heart and solar plexus (digestive area) fountains, Mangku encouraged us to drink deeply from the water as well. Many people brought jugs to collect water from these two particular fountains, as they are not only holy, but are believed to have healing powers for the heart and body.

Two of the fountains were for universal healing of the planet. And I’m unable to recall the purpose of a couple some of the others. There were some fountains that we skipped, as their purpose was for those preparing the dead for cremation, or for the priests.

There were quite a few foreign tourists at the temple taking photos that day, but we were the only ones who entered the pool and experienced this beautiful Balinese Hindu tradition.

This was something that Mangku lamented to us at lunch later in the day – that people come to Bali and take yoga classes and do a little meditation and think they know Bali.

No! He says you can’t fully understand and appreciate Bali unless you come to the temple and partake in the cleansing ritual! You do not need to be Balinese or Hindu to participate… if you come to Bali, do NOT miss out on this opportunity!

After the water purification portion of the ritual, we changed back into dry sarongs, and proceeded further into the temple.

Mangku made more offerings on our behalf, and then led us to an area where another Mangku was leading devotees in prayer.

We sat on the ground, offerings before us, and went through the same ritual we performed at the banyon tree.

Afterward, the priests blessed us with holy water and rice – which we ate and which was applied to our foreheads and base of the throat.

Although I do not claim to begin to understand the deeper meanings behind the rituals, I found that they created a wonderful sense of connectedness in me. It was a very spiritual experience and a perfect way to begin a new year after my birthday.

Mangku Putu then joined us for lunch, where he answered more of our questions and shared a bit about his life and philosophies.

Afterward, he invited us to his personal residence, to enter his “special room” where he would make a protection bracelet for each of us out of black, red and white yarn. This was quite an honor and a very special experience. Mangku invited me to visit his special room anytime I come to Bali.

We met his wife and daughter, mother and other family members. The contrast of our lovely villa to the simple family compounds where most Balinese live was stark.

This photo slide show will give you a good feel for what we experienced on this very memorable day in Bali… and I’d love to hear your thoughts. (A few if these shots were taken by Brandon)

(12) Comments   


Jean on March 21st, 2012 at 11:39 pm

Facinating.. Thank you for not only the wonderful pictures but the narrative as well. There is this big beautiful wonderful world out there and I feel as though I have only seen a very tiny tiny crumb of the feast. Thank you for sharing your experience.

Jennifer Pearce on March 22nd, 2012 at 6:28 am

It was so fun to review the day through your blog post. What great photos and memories. 🙂 I thought it was a really great spiritual experience as well. I’m glad we took the opportunity to participate so fully. 🙂

Elizabeth on March 22nd, 2012 at 7:55 am

What an incredibly amazing experience! Thank you for sharing with us your photos and memories. I really enjoyed reading about your day in Bali with your family.

Brandon on March 22nd, 2012 at 8:13 am

Thanks for posting about this day in such detail. It’s a day I want to remember well and you’ve made that possible. This was a very different, rewarding, spiritual, and fun experience and I’m so glad we all to got to do it together. Mangku was such a fun character, too.

Robert on March 22nd, 2012 at 1:32 pm

Wow… so they get their temple recommends from a tree… What an improvement.. LOL..

Looks like it was a great experience. Would love to have been there. What a nice trip you are having.

What is the weather like? Hot? Is it a humid hot or a dry heat? I suppose more humid with all the vegetation.

Anne on March 22nd, 2012 at 2:23 pm

This is so awesome! How wonderful that you had a cleansing of your chakras and now you are coming home to teach a class on chakas and essential oils! You are living the good life my friend! I have so much love and respect for you and your family and for this journey you are all on. Especially the journey of freedom and seeing your Spirits Soar! Hugs!

Michelle on March 22nd, 2012 at 4:49 pm

So very cool. I just keep thinking what an education your grandchildren are getting! I loved reading about your experience, and am so glad you took this trip.

Kristin on March 23rd, 2012 at 2:24 am

What an amazing experience! It’s so fascinating and wonderful that you were able to take part in it! Can we go there when I come over? 🙂 I’m really looking forward to hearing more detail and seeing your pictures when you get home!

Allison on March 23rd, 2012 at 5:49 am

@Rob – LOL – yes, it was a far more enjoyable temple recommend interview. It is very hot and humid here, but then it gets breezy and cooler… but still humid. Lots of mosquitoes which I do NOT like… but lots of frogs and geckos to eat them, which I do like.

@Michelle – you would have loved my fall into the pool. It was somewhat reminiscent of my fall on the cruise ship stage 🙂

@Anne – yes, the timing is beautifully serendipitous. You would love this place and its rich, spiritual traditions.

@Krisin – YES! I wouldn’t want to come back to Bali without visiting the temple and participating in the ritual again. It’s been a real highlight. That, and meeting/visiting with the beautiful local people who have warmly welcomed us into their homes.

Margie Aliprandi on March 23rd, 2012 at 11:06 am

Oh my Allison, you have really captured the essence of Bali in your beautiful photos. What a life changing experience! Could you ever have even guessed what was in store for you when we were saying “You’re going to Bali”

paul on March 25th, 2012 at 2:31 pm

Amazing!!! What a wonderful experience. I can almost sense what it feels like to be there thanks to your great pictures.

Betty Anderson on April 7th, 2012 at 8:04 am

I am so impressed with the lives that they are living. Brandon’s family lived in our neightborhood and were such a sweet family. I am proud of what they have decided to do and how they are doing it. I would love to meet you because you have the same grace as I. I slipped in the babtism font at the temple and went under. Such a proud moment. Keep up all the good work

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