Full Circle: Notes on Bali by Jan Tyniec, 2002

The sun was going down, all was filled with still strong but already soft golden light.

Into one of the inner courtyards of the Batuan temple there was a very slow, relaxed flow of mainly women, of all ages. Sometimes they would arrive with husbands or children, often alone. Dressed in elaborate sarongs with lace tops tied closely with satin belts. Their hair tied up. Carrying trays with a pyramid of offerings on their heads. Colors and patterns, all you can imagine, bright colors but strangely soft in the light of late afternoon. They moved slowly with amazing grace. Men mainly dressed in white, almost always with a white top and a narrow white piece of fabric tied around the head. There was a slow yet steady cycle to the process. The trays were placed on large elevated tables under a tent like roof. A priest attended them from the temple. Once the tables were full, he would sprinkle them with sacred water from a golden jar (resembling a little blessing basket with offerings at Easter.)

The priest would come down from his elevated platform and walk between the rows of women, stopping and sprinkling water over each ones head, their faces pointing down.

The women were lined up sitting or kneeling in rows facing east. Then the prayers began: words spoken by the priest, some low chanting from the side. The women would focus, straighten their backs as if lifting from the ground, would raise their arms and hands together over their heads, hands holding up a small blossom. They would hold the folded hands over their heads for a moment, perfectly lined up with their bodies; then lower their arms, relax their backs, and a few moments later repeat the movement. It was simple, but at the same time incredible. The movement was slow and graceful. The first row did it, then the second, then the third and again toward the front. Each row consisted of maybe fifteen women. It was a small temple.

It seemed not human, but a part of nature, like tall grass bending with soft blows of wind, or ocean waves as they reach the shore and you see another in the distance about to repeat the movement. It was hypnotizing.

After a few waves one woman after another would stand up, collect her blessed offering, and slowly leave. As all this was taking place, new women were arriving, and the process continued with a slow, steady pace.

I had my camera, but I couldn’t move. I was under a spell of magic and wanted to cherish this moment, afraid that any unnecessary gesture would do something to break the perfection unfolding in front of my eyes.

Jan Tyniec 2002