Odalan: Bali's temple celebrations

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Odalan: Bali's temple celebrations

Bali is a tiny island that blooms in its essence with a myriad of beliefs and practices rooted deeply in its ancient culture. Odalan is the name given to one of the several festivities in Bali that celebrate these beliefs, and in the highlight of mythology and religion of Bali, partaking in or witnessing an odalan ceremony is sure to give you an insight into the richness of Balinese culture.

 

About odalan ceremonies in Bali

 

Significance of odalan ceremony

Bali is home to villages and tribes that are so ancient they date back to the ancient times. These tribes had beliefs and stories of pagan origin, but with the advent of Hinduism, Buddhism and aspects of Chinese, Japanese and Dutch cultures, Bali has grown to develop its own unique set of religious practices that Balinese people tend to be very fervent about. Even so, Hinduism is the predominant religion in Bali and a lot of Balinese festivals are related to Hindu beliefs. The ancient pagan beliefs on the island blend into these Hindu practices, and one fine example of this is the Odalan festivities that are often going on around Bali.

Odalan: Bali's temple celebrations
Tenganan Village, one of the most ancient villages in Bali

 

Most religious and cultural rites in Bali revolve around the concept of creating a balance and harmony between positive and negative energies of the local place. Balinese people consider this critical to a successful life and overall prosperity of the island. They believe not in eliminating negative enrgies, as they consider them a natural and inhgerent part of the overall system, but in the need for this very balance and harmony for sustenance and prosperity. Odalan is no different and it is boradly aimed at appeasing the gods, celebrating their generosity and showing gratitude adn generosity in return for it.

 

Origin of Odalan

Balinese people have always been very adamant about the power of the ancient spirits of the land. They believe that in order to ensure the well-being of themselves and of their home island, it is crucial to appease these spirits and maintain harmony of these spiritual energies that determine life in Bali. In order to appease these spirits, Balinese people present offerings of food, sacred items, etc., regularly and have a lot of temples built throughout Bali in honor of these gods. The first Hindu settlement in Bali established itself in the year 1284 when the Javanese colonized Bali, marking the birth of Hinduism and such ceremonies as odalan in Bali.

Each and every temple in Bali was originally established in honor of a specific spirit local to the village. However, all of these spirits are manifestations of the same Balinese gods. In fact, there are well over 4,500 temples built on the island of Bali. Throughout the island of Bali, these temples are host to a range of ceremonies that are resonant with the time and mood of the occasion.

 

When is Odalan celebrated?

Odalan ceremonies are carried on during Purnima (full moon periods) as it is believed that full moon is the time when the inherent spiritual energies of the land and temples are at their peak, serving as an invitation to the gods to descend to the lands.

During these periods of full moon, you will be able to witness Odalan ceremonies marking the anniversaries of the founding of these temples, as per the 210-day long Balinese lunar-based calendar. Since there are thousands of temples located across Bali, with at least three temples in each village, no matter when you visit, there is an Odalan ceremony going on almost always somewhere in Bali.

How long is one odalan ceremony?

An odalan ceremony usually lasts one to three days. However, depending on the significance and size of the temple, one odalan ceremony can last upto a month even. Small odalan ceremonies occur on an yearly basis, while larger ones take place every 5, 10, 30 or even 100 years. One of the next major odalan ceremonies in Bali is going to take place on December 22, 2020, at Pura Dalem Teges Kangin, and is set up as a prospective time for tourists currently planning to visit Bali. The Ubud region of Bali is scheduled to host the most number of odalan ceremonies in the month of December, 2020.

 

Where is odalan celebrated?

Odalan is celebrated at the site of the temple associated with the odalan, and all activities and events are carried on inside and around the temple premises. Every temple in Bali has roots in the spirits associated with the local village, which is the reason for on-site celebration of odalan for each of the temples in Bali.

Some temples in Bali like the Pura Besakih on the southern slopes of the volcano named Mt. Agung in eastern Bali have their odalan ceremonies celebrated throughout Bali, people from everywhere around Bali flock to this temple during its odalan ceremony, which is celebrated every 100 years. This is because Pura Besakih is regarded as the mother temple amongst all the temple in Bali and the permanent abode of the gods. Holding the spot as the largest temple complex in Bali, its origin dates back around 1,000 years and is said to be where deities, spirits and gods descend from to the land of Bali during the odalan. Other temples in Bali that host grand festivities for their odalan are Pura Luhur Lempuyang, Pura Taman Ayun and Pura Ulun Danu Bratan.

Odalan: Bali's temple celebrations
Pura Besakih temple in volcanic slopes of eastern Bali is regarded as the mother temple in Bali

 

 

Activities during odalan celebrations

Since gods themselves are deemed to have descended onto the lands from the heavens on the occasion of an odalan, idols and symbols related to these gods are cleaned or made by hand at homes and brought out to be set up at the temple prior to the odalan. Often these idols are taken to nearby springs and bathed in the freshwaters and then dressed for the occasion. This is to help ensure the gods will be able to manifest, when they descend to earth at the temple thanks to the resonating energies created by the full moon, music, rituals, dances, prayers, etc., collectively. Additionally, the temple walls are decorated using flags, golden-colored cloths, umbrellas, umbul (pennants, i.e., flags attached to poles) and bamboo ornamented with coconut leaves.

Odalan: Bali's temple celebrations
Idol of a Hindu god washed, dressed up and seated as seen at a local temple in Bali

 

Long processions known as Mapeed are definitely a sight worth witnessing, and participants are clad in traditional attires which are either golden or white in color. People in these processions balance wooden baskets carrying offerings of food (especially fruits and the Bali-vital rice cakes) and flowers for the gods while walking together towards a nearby spring or beach from the temple and back.

 

The head priest initiates the ceremony by inviting the god associated with the temple to come down and get seated at the temple. In case of larger odalans, gods associated with nearby temples are also invited to get seated at the temple for the occasion.

Odalan: Bali's temple celebrations
Initation for gods to be seated at a temple during an odalan in Bali

 

Once the gods are deemed to be seated, every healthy and capable resident of the village offers prayers at the temple. For larger odalans people from nearby places in Bali and international tourists will also visit. The mood during these prayers is bursting with a resonating sense of devotion, not only at the temple itself but amongst the local people in general as well. These initial prayers make up the religious aspect of the ceremony.

Odalan: Bali's temple celebrations
Prayers being offered at an odalan ceremony in Bali

 

Immediately following these prayers people participate in feasts together and it is customary to offer donations of money to the temple. It is to be noted that a lot of fakesters will solicit donation amounts around the temple complex area during an odalan. However, if you want to donate, make sure to donate only to the temple directly and at the temple itself.

The religious ceremony is followed by social events for the rest of the day or the coming days. These celebratory events and activities are called Dewa Yadnya, which is the Balinese equivalent of Dewa Yajna in Sanskrit and literally translates to “ceremonies for the god”. Social activities performed during this include traditional music, traditional dances, puppetry and theater performances and gamelan sessions. Gamelan is a Balinese ceremony accompanied by a flamboyant and lively performance on traditional percussion instruments. All in all, during an odalan you will find yourself in the immersive environment of spectacular sights to be seen and enchanting sounds to be heard around the temple and surrounding beaches.

Odalan: Bali's temple celebrations
Village community participation is crucial and abound during odalan at temples in Bali

 

Odalan ends with a brief closing ceremony, which usually involves the participants gathering together before leaving to sweep the temple complex and clean up the place as odalan festivity ends. Even though every temple has its own unique set of activities that define the odalan associated with it, the sense of devotion, gratitude to and appreciation for the gods and the sense of community belonging and participation is always a common underlying theme at every odalan celebration. After the ceremony, the fruits and other edible items of offering are consumed by the people as they are deemed to have been blessed by the gods that arrived for the occasion.

 

How to reach Bali for odalan

If you are interested in witnessing the immense richness of odalan in Bali and are wondering how to reach Bali, rest assured the journey is more or less very convenient. This is due to the growing popularity of Bali as an international tourist spot. The Denpasar Airport in Bali, locally known as the Ngurah Rai International Airport flies in flights from all major international destinations, including all major Indian cities like Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Bangalore, etc. The flight from Delhi to Denpasar, Bali takes about 14 hours on average.

Denpasar Airport is situated at a distance of 13 km from Denpasar city, the capital of Bali, so modes of transportation like taxis and public buses or trams are easily available from here, to take you to your place of accommodation in Bali.

Alternative ways for how to reach Bali: You can choose to fly to Jakarta, the capital city of Indonesia, and then choose to board a connecting flight or a ferry to the Bali island of Indonesia. It is possible to reach Jakarta by road but you are going to need visas for all the countries you will be passing through, and this will be really inconvenient unless a long road trip is specifically what you are looking for.

 

Places to stay in Bali during your visit

No matter what area or hotel you choose out of all the places to stay in Bali during your trip, you will easily find an odalan ceremony  happening somewhere around in your area at the time. Therefore, you will not need to consider and look into odalan occasions and their schedules per se unless there is a specific odalan ceremony you wish to witness and take part in. Odalan at major temples are often tourist attractions. However, these big-scale odalan festivities do not occur every year, but every few decades depending on the scale of the ceremony and the significance of the temple it is happening at.

Bali is host to a number of cheap accommodations for international tourists. This is in part to facilitate tourism, as Bali regards tourism not as a means of income but as a means of showcasing its culture and what it is about to the world. Some examples of good places to stay in Bali are:

Low-budget:

  • Made Roejas Homestay (~INR 200/night) in Kuta.
  • Chez Ida (~INR 250/night) in Kuta.
  • Gusti Homestay Bali (~INR450/night) in Kemenuh.

Mid-budget:

  • Hamsa Resort (~INR 1,600-2,000/night) is a very popular tourist accommodation spot in Kabupaten area of Bali.
  • Another is Waterfall Treehouse Cabins (~INR 1,800/night) in Kabupaten.
  • If you are looking for exquisite facilities at relatively cheaper prices you might want to consider Senetan Villas and Spa Resort (~INR 2,000-2,500/night). All three of these are located in the Kabupaten area of Bali.
Odalan: Bali's temple celebrations
Almost all mid-range hotel accommodations in Bali provide comfortable and scenic pool facilities

 

High-budget:

  • Element By Westin Bali (~INR 3,800/night) in Ubud.
  • Plataran Ubud Hotel And Spa (~INR 5.700/night) in Ubud.

Tips for visiting Bali

  1. It is advised to carry lightweight clothing when visiting Bali so you will be able to face the warm and humid weather in Bali that is almost entirely year-round.
  2. Renting a motorcycle to travel around might be a good bet if you are visiting Bali, as Bali streets are often crowded and jammed with traffic, and coupled with the warm weather this could get a bit tedious and overwhelming. You will find numerous places in places around your place of stay that offer motorcycles for hiring for this very purpose.

 

Bali is truly a getaway island, because once on the island of Bali you are going to find yourself surrounded by a rich amalgam of a culture that makes up the feel of Bali. There are numerous activites aimed at celebrating the culture of Bali, as Balinese people consider this highly important. Odalan ceremonies are one such occasions, but due to the common nature of odalan, kknowing about it before visitng Bali is important as no matter when you visit or where you visit, chances are you are going to find yourself in the middle of an odalan and thoroughly enjoying the immersive experience, during your trip to Bali. Your trip to Bali is indeed going to be one of the special times and experiences of your life.


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FAQs

Odalan is a village temple festival celebrated by every temple in Bali. It marks the founding anniversary of the temple and is aimed at appeasing the local deity associated with the temple and expressing gratitude for its generosity upon the village, for continuing prosperity of the village.
Even though odalan is a community cultural festival, the practice is derived from religious beliefs of Bali. Hinduism is the predominant religion practised in Bali island.
Bali is a predominantly Hindu island following colonization by the Javanese. During odalan, the local god, spirit or deity associated with the temple and village lands is invited to be "seated" in the temple and offered prayers, fruits, flowers, etc.
No matter what time of the year, there is always an odalan going on in Bali at some or the other temple. This is because Bali houses over 4,500 temples on its tiny island.
Odalan is celebrated at each and every temple located in Bali, inside the temple premises and in the temple complex. Processions and rituals will be carried out in areas around the village the temple is located in.
People wash and dress up idols of local gods, decorate the temple walls, offer prayers and fruits and flowers to the gods during odalan in Bali. This is followed by social events such as traditional dances, music, recitals, feasts, etc.
You can comfortably witness all of the proceedings, rituals and rites during odalan at the local temple. In addition, offering a donation to the temple along with the rest of the locals with instill a sense of oneness between you and them.
Balinese people firmly believe that for sustenance and prosperity a harmony between positive energy (dharma) and negative energy (adharma) needs to be achieved as both of these energies are inherent to anything. In fact, there is a specific occasion named as Galungan in Bali that celebrates this concept when the ancestral spirits of Bali are said to revisit Bali.
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TrueHAB Admin
Last Updated : Jan 15,2021
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