Off Limits. Verboten. Period.

All across the island, Balinese are today celebrating Kuningan, the holiday that takes place ten days after Galungan. This last day of the holiday period, a ritual ceremony is held for ancestral spirits who ascend back to heaven. Balinese make special offerings of yellow rice; more elaborate ritual offerings are made, while intricate-woven lamaks (palm leaf decorations) are hung from vehicles and bales around and outside the family compound.

Let’s just say this is a REALLY auspicious day for the Balinese, with preparations in the works for days if not weeks. As in Galungan, everyone is dressed in their finest, heading to temple ceremonies, playing gamelan music, visiting relatives – all before the festival ends at noon. Let’s just say that I had plans for Kuningan. But apparently, the universe had other plans for me…

It doesn’t matter if you’re on close terms with the family, and it doesn’t matter if you’ve helped prepare the sampian (palm leaf plates) and banten / canang (offerings), or if Nyoman expected you to wear again the kebaya and sash she lent you until after Kuningan; because women who are menstruating are prohibited from entering a temple, forbidden to touch offerings, shunned from ceremonies. In short, they are deemed impure, unclean, touched by evil spirits.

So since yesterday, which just happened to be the day on which the neighborhood’s Odalan ceremony (birthday of the banjar temple) took place, I’ve been feeling like a persona non grata in the Family compound. They haven’t been ignoring me, but for all intents and purposes, I’ve been dismissed. And disappointed. Gone were the reminders about dress and time for Odalan; forgotten was the invitation to join in at prayers this morning in the family temple.

It was time to make other plans.

So last night I went to Jen’s Chocolate and Wine party at her villa nearby…

… after which, I walked back down my road (Jalan Sukma), past the neighborhood pavilion where the Odalan ceremonies, gamelan music and other festivities had ended not long before…

And early this morning, to the sounds of near-silence, I strolled into town. Down the main road: Except for the occasional motorbike, Jalan Raya was nearly deserted.

Then to the market: Other than Nyepi (the annual ‘day of silence’), this is quite possibly the only time that the main market (Pasar Ubud) is almost completely devoid of human presence and bustling activity – save for a few vendors arriving at their shops to place offerings. You could almost hear a pin drop. Even the policeman, usually at his watch-post on the corner, was nowhere to be seen.

In a few minutes, I will head off to another afternoon of writing. Perhaps I’ll manage to write myself back into the circle of life here in Ubud.


  1. Amit how fascinating! And then the while neighborhood (I assume) knows you are menstruating or else why wouldn’t you be there? How fortunate you had other fun plans with friends! Hard to imagine the main market so desolate. Wow.


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