Finally on Amavashya day of the ninth Balinese month, thousands Hindus flocked to The Mother Temple for the Panca Bali. The sacrificial area has fully decorated. The priests arranged the offering of various kinds, including meat from certain animals. Two monsters, in the size of a car, made from vegetables, grains, and fruits guarding the entrance gate of the holy ground. Five Thrones of Divine Sun made from bamboo and palm trees presiding over the whole area, served as resting place for the invited Maha Devas, the Lords of five elements, five cardinal directions, and five powerful natural energies. We also had five pavilions for Brahmin high priests, in responsible for the five Maha Devas, and their offerings. All the offerings were arranged in a form of Mandala, symbolically represented the whole universe. Rice and grains of various colors were the most important part of the offerings. We could find a ten meters mountain of colourful rice cakes in various shape, once again formed a three dimensional Mandala. It has big Kurma (turtle) and Seshanaga as the base. On turtles back were many small statues of various living entities, from demons, vegetations, animals, ghosts, humans, heavenly nymphs, sages, demigods, to the great Mahadevas and Brahmas. Everything was made from rice flour.
The pavilion for officiating high priests
The high priests began to initiate the elaborate ceremony by certain process called Srija-puja or Uttpati, thus installed the living force to all sacrificial offerings. Now the whole offerings spiritually increased, spread all over the world, unlimited as the universe. Magically the whole universe now contained in one spot, at the sacrificial arena. The high priests of so called Vaishnavite sect, believed as the guardian of the most secret formulas to subdued malignant energies, began to invoke the Maha Devas in their wrathful forms. The fiery Lords and their dangerous attendants of wild ghostly beings, pleased by tamasic offerings of meat, blood, and liquor. Then by the power of mantras and sounds of conches, drums, and bells the high priests subdued them and appeased their anger. The next step was responsibility of so called Buddhists high priests. They used many hand gestures (mudras) and two typical Vajrayana weapons, same as the ones used by Tibetan Lamas, the adamantine sceptre (vajra) and bell (ghanta). They guided further transformation of tamed powerful natural energies to more peaceful, divine, graceful forms. The mask dance, puppet show, traditional music concert, religious singing, and also other dance by groups of virgin boys and girls were performed to please the attending Devas. Now we came to the responsibility of the Shaivite high priests. They have to offer the essences of the purest offerings to please all graceful manifestations of the Devas and finally obtained their benedictions. This is the process of universal maintenance or Sthiti-puja. Finally, we came to conclusive stage. The whole universe was offered to the fire-like anger of wrathful emanations of the Presiding Devatas. By this offering they became pleased and peaceful. The malignant energies emanates from the Maha Devas, re-entered their Divine Sources. The whole sacrificial offering now has been burned to ashes. This was the time for Samhara or Pralina-puja. The Mandala brooked by mixed all colourful grains to form undifferentiated mound. They were solved by scraping them, directed to the centre. Now everything was already finished, no clear form was left. But the sacrificial offerings were stay in their subtle form. The powerful energies, reborn as a new, fresher and better universe. In one corner, some priests chanted a must correctly read verses from palm leaves book. This ritual was performed to beg apologized from all invoked Devatas if there’s any error along the observance of the sacred ceremony. Ah.. anyhow we hope the goal of this rare ritual was successfully fulfilled…
The temple has elaborately decorated to welcomes all the Devatas
The Bhumi-suddhi was culmination of all process for spiritually purifying the object (what to be offered) and place (where). After all we came to the purification of the subject (who). This is by performing ritualistic bathing of all sacred images of Devatas worshipped in Besakih and all other temples in Bali, called Melasti. The sacred images of the Devatas, brought out from their numerous sanctums, and assembled in the inner courtyard of Besakih temple, at the space representing Svah-lokam, the place of Threefold Lotus Throne of The Divine Sun. There, they have their place in the big mandapam, symbolically representing the Deva-sabha of Celestial realm. All ranks of Devas now formally invoked by their attendant priests and common devotees. From the highest Brahma down to deified ancestors of the Balinese. All of them, in the form of sacred images then ride on their special carriers. Some on wooden gilded Palaki (palanquin), some on mount-carriers (vahana) shaped as animals, even in the weirdest form like half-fish half-elephant, horned sea-monster, winged lion, and some just rest on the head of their devotees. Also went with the Devas are many temple’s heir-looms such as ancient weapons, sacred jewelleries, inscription plates, etc. Not only the Devas from various shrine in Besakih main temple and its sub-temple were invited to the “grand bathing”, but also the Patron Devas of all temples guarding each cardinal point in Bali. Because their sacred images also had the same ritualistic protocol at their own temples, the presence of these Devatas were represented by kumbhan (but as usual in Bali substitute by decorated bamboo jars). They went in grand procession of thousands peoples, downed the mountain, and walked toward the sea, to the temple of Sagara Watu Klotok about 5 hours walk. In every villages along the way to the sea, the Devatas welcomed by highly decorated streets and kneeling devotees. Everyone was in festive moods. They offered obeisance to the passing Devatas by sat low on the ground and raised their anjali hands over the heads. The offering of fruits, flowers, and incenses waved to the Devatas so they can take their essences for refreshment along the journey. This time the procession went slower than usual, it was need 2 more hours to reach the beach, because the streets were highly packed with devotees.
The Devatas will assemble here, in front of The Three Thrones of Divine Sun. Symbolize the highest Divinity, Sun of suns, Light of all lights. The Supreme God in His Trinity Forms.
Riding on Palanquins carried by their devotees, the Devatas came down to earthly realm.
After 7 hours journey on foot, the Devatas and their devotees arrived at the Sea Temple. Here at the beach, the grand public bathing ceremony was performed. It wasn’t like usual thirumanjanam or snana-seva as we performed in Agamic-Pancaratric way. The consecrated water and other purifying liquids weren’t directly poured on the sacred images but in manashik way, just in meditation. Similar with the protocol observed in the worship of Lord Jagannath of Puri. Only a small amount of liquids ritualistically sprinkled toward the deities. After the whole ceremony was completed, the holy waters then distributed among devotees to purifying their mind and their karma. Then the whole celestial entourages again returned to the assembly hall of Besakih. By the completion of this ritual, the whole island of Bali considered spiritually pure and ready to perform the Panca Bali on the last Amavashya day of 1930 Saka year.
Peoples flocked at the street to pay their obeisances to the passing Devatas
Finally arrived at the seashore
Actually the grand bathing ceremony was performed annually, though not as great as this year. I heard once in such occasion in the past, they throw a sealed jar made of glass to the sea. The jar attached by a rope, hold by a high priest at the beach. He then meditated on Lord Mahavishnu and asks permission from Varuna by chanting special mantras. Fifteen minutes later, they take the sealed jar out of the sea-water and there’s a small amount of fresh water inside. A tea cup or less. Really! It’s fresh water out of the sea, not the salty one. They believed this holy water can cure illness and swept away any bad karma. By greater spiritual energy obtained from The Lord as He pleased, even it has power to bring the death alive! Today, unfortunately, only some Brahmanic high priests knew how and agree to perform that unique ritual of magically obtaining special sacred water out of the sea. My grandma, a lady of nobility in good relation with the priestly class, as she told me, was fortunate enough to once witness such a wonder. But until now, I myself never saw any. Me, her grandson, is a little stingy (He..He..) but she was a generous aristocratic donor for our family Brahmin. So the late old high priestess, the aunt of our present Puroheet, has much affection to her. She used to explain and showed her many interesting things happened in her priestly career. By the way, I’m serious. The Balinese Hindus really have fully ordained Brahmin priestess. Our late high priestess was a Brahmana-kanya, a celibate virgin priestess. Very rare indeed, but actually exist.
Now came the time for more ceremonies focused in the spot of Yajna. The Brahmanic high priests led the process of “measuring the land”. With the help of consecrated cotton yarn they made a square area in the outer courtyard of the great temple. This will became the exact spot of the spreading of mandala offerings, the centre of all compass orientations. This is also marking the sacrificial arena of Panca Bali. The yarn then used as further guide to make lines, applied on the ground by help of white flour. Only after these white flour lines gave two dimensional form of sacrificial arena, the concrete walls, pavilions, and other specific three dimensional building for the Yajna were erected and arranged on the spot. Next we came to the ceremony for obtaining sacred ingredients of the Yajna. The most important were the making of sacred cakes and oils. This is the most holiest offering in the Yajna for worshipping the benevolent Devatas. These were obtained from sanctified white, blemish less, healthy cow. Some high priests then blessed the honourable cow and ceremoniously collected her milk, dung, urine, tears, and saliva. They mixed them in special way to produce the holy substance. This substance was then mixed again with molasses, pure honey, butter, and flour to form the sacred cakes. Other part was mixed with boiling coconut milk to produce sacred oils. Every mixing process used the special sticks made from bunches of kusa grass. After all the ingredients for the Yajna were readily available, then they perform Bhumi-suddhi (Pemarisuddha) the ceremony of purifying and blessing the sacrificial arena. The high priests were again invoking the local earthly devas, fixing their power and other celestials to protect the spot, then dedicated the area solely only for spiritual purpose. From now, the area wasn’t part of mundane earth anymore, but represented the unlimited space, large enough to contain the whole universe. Indeed, the Panca Bali was to invoke the whole universe, and then offered it to The Lord of Universe who will destroy it in His wrathful fire, and again recreating it in a new, fresh form.
The Panca Bali begins by preliminary ritual weeks before. I shall try to describe them in brief. The first process was obtaining two consecrated holy water for distributed to all part of Bali. Every village chiefs came to Besakih with decorated bamboo jar (a substitution for kalasha, I think). Every of them got two kind of holy water. One was for purification of their respective villages and peoples, and the other, I think has such an interesting significance. This one consecrated water was used as magical seal applied on the departed souls that not yet ceremoniously purified. That’s mean the souls of the not yet ceremoniously cremated deaths, ones without proper funeral ritual, ignored Pitri of those who hasn’t had their Sraddha, Pinda, and Tarpana performed yet, and other ghostly beings. The religious authorities of Balinese Hindu banned any kind of personal religious activity without any connection with the grand Panca Bali ceremony in Besakih, that including funeral ceremony, wedding, etc. With no proper ritual, we expected will be many impure departed souls in Bali. They could bring bad energy and disturb the purity of people’s mind, thus became further disturbance to the great sacrificial ceremony. The village chiefs took the two jars of holy water and ceremoniously placed them in the Death Temples, Lord Siva’s places of worship. He then distributed it among his peoples for sprinkled in their own houses and family shrines. By the first holy water the whole village was purified. By the second one, all wandering souls were sealed by the authority of the Yamaraja, Lord of Death and Cemetery. The villagers then asked the Ancestral Lord, Prajapati, whose shrine was near the cremation ground, to take care the souls of their departed relatives for a while, till the grand ceremony of Panca Bali was completed.
Vaishnavism of Suvarnabhumi and Nusantara (Indonesia)
Indonesia once was part of The Greater India or Suvarnabhumi. The Hindus for centuries called her Dvipantara, “the islands between”, perhaps extended from Jambudvipa (modern Indian subcontinent) to Astralaya (Australia in archaic Javanese). The Indonesians, especially Javanese and Balinese Hindus, also use the name Nusantara for this magnificent archipelago, which has same meaning as Dvipantara in Kavi language (a Sanskritized Ancient Javanese language, may be seven out of ten words was Sanskrit). Indonesia has a long history of Vedic civilization for more than 1500 years (according to archaeological findings). She continued as the greatest Hindu/ Vedic country in Southeast Asia until the fall of the last Hindu Empire of Bilvatikta (Majapahit) and emergences of Islamic kingdom and Sultanates on late 13th century. Today Indonesia is one of the biggest Moslem countries, with the Moslems majority more than 85%. But the deep rooted Vedic practices from centuries weren’t easily ceased and remain as traditional native’s customs scattered here and there throughout Indonesian Archipelago.
I have interested in spirituality since my childhood. Fortunately The Lord Sriman Caitanyadeva gave me mercy to serve under His devotees and together we organize Sri Sri Radha Rasbiharijiu Seva Sanga. To serve The Lord and spreading Hindu-Vedic Vaishnavism spiritual messages. My second fortune is getting contact again with my ancestral faith of Srivaishnavism. My life is now for glorifying My Beloved Lord and His Sampradhayam.