On the run-up to Bali's day of absolute silence "Nyepi," Bali's Hindus observed the ritual celebration of Melasti on Wednesday, March 2, 2011. On this date, sacred religious objects are temporarily removed from village temples and carried to the sea where they can be ritually cleansed in preparations for the New Year observance that follow three days later.
The Balinese gathered at ocean shores across the island for Melasti on Wednesday, starting from approximately 3:00 pm. Kuta Beach in Bali was packed by local families wearing traditional dress who flocked to the beach carrying a wide variety of religious offerings.
Young and old alike enthusiastically joined the long processions down to the beach. There, the Melasti observance began with prayers led by a Hindu priest, followed by the tossing of offerings into the sea. Then, young girls are called upon to dance the Rejang - a dance whose very name means "offering" and is generally performed for the gods with the dancers backs turned to their human audience. The holy day at the beach concludes with group prayers and meditations.
Following prayers the sacrifice of live goats, chicken and ducks is made by throwing the livestock into the ocean's surf. This final part of the Melasti ritual - Pakelem is intended to seek safety and security from Betara Segara who controls the oceans.
Following festive ogoh-ogoh parades on Friday night, the island transformed into an isle of complete silence on Saturday, March 5, 2001, when, from 6 am on Saturday until 24 hours later the Balinese are not allowed to work, ignite flames, venture forth from their homes or satisfy personal appetites.
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