Saraswati Day is dedicated to the Goddess of Knowledge. We had a chance to participate in the ceremony, as well as in the preparation of the temple, which takes place one day before the actual festival.
Like the Balinese, we wore traditional clothes used for all ceremonies. We had sarongs, girls wore kebaya (a top made of lace), and boys put on udeng (a head cloth). Why do only men have to wear a hat? Because it reminds them that they need to control their mind, and it’s men whose thoughts go wilder than women’s.
Everyone wants to look their best, wear the most beautiful clothes, and girls put on their make-up. We have been told that meeting God is comparable to meeting your real love: you want to look astonishing and you are ready to spend any amount of money to make this meeting worthwhile. If not, then it’s not the true love.
The ceremony started with bringing offerings: Balinese canang sari made of flowers, banana leaves, rice, and cookies. Balinese gamelan, the orchestra which consists of mostly percussive instruments, accompanied he ceremony. I was melting from the heat, but once the dance performance began, I was speechless and forgot about any discomfort.
In the Balinese war dance, called Baris Gede, men carry various weapons. In the one we watched they had spears and wooden knives. But for me, female dancers were absolutely stunning. Even in full make-up, tight costumes, and complicated flower constructions on their heads, they were able to move with the finest precision. The dance, called Rejang Dewa, involves the whole body, together with fingertips and eyeballs that move to the rhythm of gamelan.
After the dance performance, we sat together and prayed with the locals, and at the culmination of the ceremony we had a pinch of rice applied on the middle of our foreheads between the eyebrows – one of the chakras in our bodies. The rice did not last long on mine, but I hope the blessing is still working.