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Home » Religion

Odalan: Temple Anniversary  

by on Friday, 9 March 2007No Comment | 3,662 views

Every temple in Bali has a regularly scheduled festival, an odalan, to celebrate the anniversary of temple dedication. The Odalan are scheduled either by the lunar calendar, the Saka Calendar, or by the 210-day ceremonial cycle, the Pawukon calendar. The latter consist of 30 weeks, each seven days long. Most odalans are set by the Pawukon calendar, some temple fix their odalans according to lunar calendar or the Saka Calendar. Usually an odalan takes place at either full or new moon, more likely full than new.


Most odalan last for three days, although some go on for more than a week especially for odalan that is set by the lunar calendar or the Saka Calendar and a few last only one day. The odalan usually begins late in the afternoon and last until very late at night or even into the morning hours. The ceremonies vary so much from village to village that it is impossible to state exactly the details of an odalan but there are many common features, and it is impossible to draw a useful composite picture.

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Odalan, like all Balinese ceremonies, is never solemn. Every one chats, jokes, and laugh, children run around delighting in the festive atmosphere. It is a joyous occasion. A group of older man recites traditional poetry in ancient language. This recitation called Makekawin. After one man reads a phrase in a singsong fashion, another translates into the vernacular so interested bystanders can understand.

Women come and put down their offerings in a small open pavilion (bale) and make last-minute adjustment. The men remove their sandals and then sit cross-legged (masila) on them on the ground. The women rejoin their families on the ground, kneeling (matimpuh) rather than sitting. Each worshipper puts a canang on the ground in front of where he or she is seated, and then places a stick of smoking incense on the top of the canang or sticks it into the ground nearby, ready for the prayers.

Meanwhile, seated in the center on a mat, one or several man or woman clad all in white are praying fervently, each ringing a bronze bell with his or her left hand and occasionally flipping flowers toward the offerings filled in front of them. Sandalwood brazier in the smolder nearby and its fragrant smoke mixes with incense that fills the air above the worshippers. Periodically each man takes a small basket and wafts the essence of the offerings and the smoke toward the deities. These are the lay priests, the pemangkus, who have direct charge of temple affairs. Their prayers present the offerings themselves to the focus of the ceremony, the God.

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The act of prayer of the worshipper consists of grasping a flower from the canang between the middle fingers, palms together, thumbs against forehead. The temple priest leads the prayers; there are five separated prayers, the first prayer is without flower dedicated to purify the mind of the respective worshiper. The second prayer usually uses red flower, is dedicated to Sun God (Bhatara Surya), asking him to witness the prayer. The third prayer usually uses a fan shape offering, called kwangen, can be substituted with flower and money if it is not available, this prayer is dedicated to the God which resides in that temple. The fourth prayer also uses kwangen or flower and money if it is not available; this prayer is dedicated to the God Almighty, Ida Sanghyang Widhi. The fifth prayer uses no flower; this prayer is dedicated to show our gratitude to the God Almighty, Ida Sanghyang Widhi.

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After the prayers, the pemangku comes around with holy water. The worshipper holds out his hands, takes the holy water into his right palm three times and sips it. The fourth and fifth pouring is spread over face and hair. After a final sprinkling from the pemangku, the prayers are over. The pemangku passes around some sticky rice (bija) and the worshipper presses a bit of it onto his forehead. A small amount of this rice is also eaten.

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The worshipper now arise, put on their sandals, take up their offering and leave to go home, but most of them are stay in the middle and outer courtyard of the temple. There is much socializing here as neighbors visit, admire each other’s children, and discuss village affairs. Later on at night there is generally some wali, entertainment arranged in the form of a drama, arja opera or shadow puppet play that may last till the early hours of the morning.

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