Melasti Ceremony in Bali

Melasti Procession at Padang Galak Beach 

This Blogpost focuses on yet another incredible Balinese Ceremony known as Melasti which takes place a few days before the Balinese New Year and as can be expected is full of the pomp and circumstance known only to the Hindu’s of Bali in Indonesia!

people carrying gifts for god on head at melasti

Balinese people carrying Religious offerings on their heads at Melasti


It is a time of great celebration, a social and religious gathering whereby adherents where their very best outfits for the occasion, dressing in traditional Balinese ceremonial clothes which are wonder to see when so many people are congregated in one place in one place.


melasti ceremony at padang galak beach

Dressed in their finest, Balinese Hindu’s head to Padang Galak Beach


Padang Galak Beach is very close to the more famous Balinese tourist area of Sanur on the eastern coast of South Bali, nothing more than a stone’s throw away from the international airport and Denpasar City where most people enter the famed paradise island. But surprisingly I saw few tourists domestic or international at the Melasti Procession here! This ceremony last for three days up until the eve of the Balinese New Year and attracts thousands of devotees yet the Melasti Ceremony or Procession is not only carried out at Padang Galak but all around the Island mainly where there is a major source of water.


balinese rituals during melasti ceremony

Colourful Hindu rituals at the Sea in Bali, Indonesia


This Ceremony or rather vibrant colourful and unique spectacle for myself at least is performed just before the New Year because the Balinese believe that they should purify themselves and the very Universe itself of all evil thoughts and deeds beforehand and start the New year a fresh. The Balinese New Year is called Nyepi or The Day of Silence where unlike in developed countries a big party ensues it is a day of peace and quiet, a time for reflection and meditation where it is actually prohibited to go out onto the streets, turn on the TV, listen to music, cook for food or even speak outside the wall’s of one’s residency! It is what it is, The Day of Silence, a rare thing and something I personally believe the whole world should commit to one day a year.


rangda demon queen on beach at melasti ceremony

Offerings to Rangda the Queen of the Witches or Leyak


The Melasti ceremony is one of those special events that you certainly don’t want to miss if you are in the area around the time of the Balinese New Year. The only drawback is to see the best of it before it gets to hot and sweaty and with much less activity taking place is the ungodly hour ‘if you will’ at which time of the night or morning as it were you have to wake up at to catch it. Hundreds of people flock to Padang Galak beach from around 4am onwards hoping to arrive just before sunrise and make a start but we have to take into account the huge bottleneck in motorcycle traffic as one nears the entrance to the road that leads to the beach. Expect to be stuck in traffic moving at a snails pace until you finally reach the parking area.


self-stabbing ritual at melasti ceremony

Self stabbing ritual at the Melasti Ceremony


As with the Ngerebong Ceremony in a previous post about the Pengerebongan Temple‘s Piodalan (Temple Anniversary) you may catch if your are lucky as I did the self stabbing ritual as seen in the images above and below this text. Whereby the Hindu religious adherents or devotees in a deep trance attempt to pierce their flesh to prove their strength of mind faith and devotion to the God. An extraordinary spectacle again where one can only be amazed at this truly Balinese ritual not only stemming from Hinduism but also its mix on the island of Bali with the former Religion or spiritual faith of Animism.


balinese man piercing his flesh with knife

Balinese man attempts to pierce his flesh with a Dagger


It is a frenzied exercise as the tranced out men feverishly try to penetrate the skin but try as they may the sacred Kris or traditional Dagger will fortunately not pierce the skin! Once this is over and a dozen or so guys in ceremonial dress have ventured to stab themselves with no luck and have regained some kind of semblance they proceed to the waters edge where a cockerel is thrown into the water along with religious offerings of Canang Sari the beautiful Banana leaf woven baskets full of flowers, money, incense and other items all tossed into the sea as gifts for the Gods.


balinese hindus at melasti procession

The Melasti procession on Pantai Padang Galak Beach


This continues to go on for many hours but the busiest time to see this amazing religious event (which only occurs annually) at full swing is around sunrise onwards for a couple of hours. The way it works is every Banjar or local area of a village, town or city and it’s peoples have to wait their turn to go through the whole ceremonial procedure associated with Melasti so at any one time there is a huge crowd of people hanging around the place. As a group will bring statues of Gods, pay worship at a temporary shrine, be blessed with holy water and then move to the waters edge in a procession to send their offerings out into the Universe. One can see allsorts of statues, effigies and the likes along with traditional Parasols and beautifully ornate boxes and casks containing other religious artifacts. Their is a real buzz about the place and it is a pleasure to be involved in it. for those who like their space it is easy to step to one side and just observe the proceedings.


giant statues on beach at melasti ceremony

Giant effigies are carried along Pantai Padang Galak at Melasti in Bali


colourful crowd of people in ceremonial dress at melasti

Balinese people waiting for their personal ceremonies to begin


All in all this is not only a spectacularly interesting religious event to witness but you can meet many beautiful, friendly and hospitable people what Indonesia is highly regarded for in my eyes at least. It’s a stunning display and insight into the unique customs and traditions of the deeply religious yet not zealous Balinese people of this southeast Asian country which is so steeped in tradition and cultural heritage!

If you are in the area during the New Year take a look, i’m certain you won’t be disappointed! Enjoy……


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