Why My Masseuse Went AWOL

A couple of months ago, Wayan (my longtime masseuse) mentioned – in passing – that the people of her banjar (hamlet) were busy with preparations for a very important upcoming temple festival: This particular Odalan, the bi-annual temple festival celebrated by all Balinese, appeared on each temple’s calendar only once every 100 years (or less often than that, some said!) Reason enough for her fatigue; she’d been busy preparing offerings, with other banjar women, for many months. Nevertheless, she showed up with her son Arya, for a massage, not complaining once about the long drive and physical exertion required.DSC06635

I’d almost forgotten about the festival – until I saw photos that Komang (Wayan’s husband) began posting on his Facebook page. Aduh! There it was, a dazzling array of colors, jazzing up his page, compelling me to write and ask if there was more to come.. Sure, he said, please come and join us. And come I did.

Arm twisting was unnecessary: I rallied a few friends, including one with a car and, with DSC06092traditional garb in bag, we headed out to a remote village in Gianyar (regency) early one day last weekend. It took less than 30 minutes to reach their temple, but we might as well have reached the ends of (Bali’s) earth. Not another foreigner in sight (ok, maybe one, a French girlfriend of a villager).

That particular day, a celebration called Nyenuk was being held; one of the auspicious days on which offerings are presented, prayers are made,- aDSC06139nd a special procession is held.

One eye-popping sight after another greeted us as we sauntered into the temple grounds. Having already attended one of these “once-in-a-lifetime” temple ceremonies, I was prepared for the sheer breadth of sensory stimulation, piles of offerings, colorful costumes, dances, music, and stunningly, meticulously detailed creations. My friends were not. DSC06204

But we weren’t prepared to see large groups of men bedecked in shining red, yellow or black robes (each color signifying one of the compass directions – east, west, etc); nor were we prepared for the sight of two young children dressed up in bejeweled ornate costumes and headdresses, hoisted above the heads of men. We weren’t prepared for the long lines of white-garbed pemangkus (holy men) ringing bells, nor the DSC06310phalanx of women in kebayas and sarongs whose heads held towers of offerings; we were equally unprepared for the joyful dances put on by childrens’ groups, the prayers that we were invited to join, the dance steps that we were shown by village women as wDSC06521e neared the end of our visit.

It was a whirlwind of images, sights, sounds – and gratitude for the warm welcome we received as honored guests.

By the time I returned home, my body was ripe for rest – and some hand-on bodywork. Alas, my masseuse was unavailable; Wayan was wrapping up her temple duties and getting her motorbike repaired at theDSC06623 mechanic’s shop. The massage would have to wait for another, ceremony-less, day.

Meanwhile, I’ve uploaded 100 photos, in honor of the 100-year Odalan right here… enjoy!