November 15, 2002

CASTING OUT EVIL: Hindu priests hold containers of holy water at the site of the Oct. 12 bomb attack in Kuta, Bali. A Balinese Hindu style purification ritual will take place on Friday. The massive explosions left more than 190 people dead and over 300 injured. (JP/Murdani Usman)
Preparatory ritual held for grand purification ceremony

I Wayan Juniartha and Damar Harsanto, The Jakarta Post, Kuta, Bali

Police have beefed up security in Kuta, Bali, as local residents held the Mendak Bhatara Tirta water-catching ritual on Thursday evening, on the eve of the grand cleansing ceremony of Pemarisudha Karipubhaya at the Oct. 12 bombing site on Friday.

Bali Police chief Insp. Gen. Budi Setyawan said that police had deployed nearly 5,000 police officers to safeguard Kuta and its surroundings.

"This is the biggest ever force to be deployed here in terms of either the number of personnel deployed or facilities used to safeguard the great event," Budi told reporters here.

Meanwhile, thousands of local people in Kuta watched as the ritual started on Thursday at the Bale Agung temple, which hosted the tirta or holy water gathered from 30 sacred places and temples in Bali, Java and Lombok.

When the prayer ended, the pemangku or temple priests took the holy water kept in separate bamboo containers from the temple shrines and gave them to local women, who later carried them on their heads to the bomb site, about 1.5 kilometers away.

A male baby celeng butuan pig was slaughtered in the temple's outer court to appease any malevolent spirits. Immediately after that several men fell into a trance state called kerauhan. Escorted by the traditional guards of pecalang, these men led the procession to escort the water to the blast site.

A small incident happened some 50 meters south of the blast's site when a naked male foreigner ran into the street and started screaming incoherently. He was later subdued by several local security guards.

"Initially we thought that he had fallen into the trance too. But, later on we learned that he might be a psychologically disturbed man," one security guard said.

Upon arrival at the blast site, several priests subdued the tranced men by sprinkling the holy water on them. Meanwhile, other priests placed the water bamboo containers on the tall shrines of Sanggar Tawang at the northeastern corner of the ceremony's site.

"The holy water will be kept on the Sanggar Tawang to symbolize the presence of all the lords and deities of the sacred places and temples, where the water came from," Kuta customary village head Made Wendra said.

The water would be sprinkled upon the blast's site and also on the people at the end of the Pemarisudha Karipubhaya ceremony as a sign of blessing and purification.

Preparations for the cleansing ceremony were noticeable on Thursday as several important guests arrived in Bali, including East Timor President Xanana Gusmao and Taufik Kiemas, husband of President Megawati Soekarnoputri and a number of ministers.

Megawati is scheduled to attend the ceremony.

Furthermore, some 51 relatives of the Australian bombing victims had also already arrived in Kuta.

The Pemarisudha Karipubhaya ceremony will be held simultaneously at two separate places, the blast site and at the Segara temple next to Kuta beach.

It will start at around 9 a.m. local time. All the streets in Kuta will be closed during the ceremony.

Anticipating the possible influx of Balinese people into the blast site, the police will direct some of them to Segara temple, located about two kilometers nearby.

Budi Setyawan said that some 800 police mobile brigade policemen would be assigned to comb the site prior to the ceremony.

Budi revealed that 1,000 police personnel would safeguard the vicinity of the main site of the ceremony, while there would be 2,800 police officers assigned to guard the access ways to the venue, parking lots, control the traffic and conduct security checks.