Selasa, 18 Agustus 2009

The Ritual of the Morning

Balinese women are strong and know how to survive in life. Their daily practice of preparing and performing rituals gives them a sense of determination and resilience that prepares them for anything. Balinese people believe that the reason a Balinese woman is usually blessed with a longer life span than her partner is due to the practice of an important morning ritual known as ‘ngejot’, a practice which allows a woman to have a special connection with the gods that protect her from harm.

In order to perform ngejot a Balinese woman will rise before dawn because the process of preparing ngejot must begin before breakfast. It is considered extremely impolite to eat before the ngejot ritual has been completed and so people will abstain from eating until it is finished.

To most outsiders ngejot doesn’t appear to be much more than a day-to-day offering and the morning preparation of food. Preparation begins with boiling water and cooking rice, whilst at the same time, the preparation for the daily meal will also begin.

Ngejot is performed to keep a harmonious relationship between the world of the humans and the world of the gods. Each morning the ritual is prepared in the kitchen because for the Balinese, a kitchen is considered a sacred place along with the basin, water and fire, knives and anything that is associated with preparing ritual offerings. As a result, caring for the kitchen is a sacred activity.

Once the rice has finished cooking, the preparation of assembling the ‘nasi jotan’ prayer offering begins. Firstly, a portion of the rice will be placed in the holy basin. Then, the banana palm leaves are cut into small squares and placed onto a traditional holy bamboo tray known as ‘kumarang’. Lastly, small amounts of rice are added onto the banana leaves.

By placing the small offerings onto the kumarang, the rice will remain ‘sukla,’ or holy. This is a small detail that is important because if the offering is no longer considered holy the offerings will be worthless.

When all the preparations are complete and the offerings ready, a Balinese woman will go and prepare herself for the ritual.

She must put on a ‘kamben’, which is a traditional Balinese sarong. This will be worn with the ‘santeng’ that is tied around their waste during the start of the ritual.

Known as ‘nasi jotan’ each of these simple rice offerings are to be placed around various non-arbitrary points of the kitchen and the outside areas of a Balinese compound as an offering to the gods. The offerings are a way of saying thank you to those who protect the harmonious balance between the human and the natural world, the world of the gods.

The position of the nasi jotan depends on the household. Each place may have its own gods, as likely will each part of a household. Within the kitchen, these points are linked with each of the items within the kitchen. Every Balinese kitchen has a stove known as ‘jalikan’ that is used for cooking, which will receive the offering ritual, as will the water ‘jeding’, the knives, the grinder and so on until each of the items central to preparing offerings to the gods and the food for the family has received ngejot.

This morning ritual is a tradition that is held with extreme importance. Because behind the façade of daily morning food preparation and a simple offering it is so much more than just a simple offering to the gods. Ngejot is awesome as it helps to connect a Balinese family with a hidden and mysterious power that protects a family from harms way.

If this ritual is done well it is possible for a great power to exist within the kitchen of a Balinese household. A power of protection provided by the gods that has the potential to rid a person of all the bad energy that they might have collected during the day.

To this day, Balinese elders still acknowledge the importance of removing all bad energy from the body before entering into the central part of a Balinese home.

As such, the first step they can be seen taking upon arriving home is into their household kitchen. They are still connected to a deep understanding of the traditional practices of Bali, and the reasons for them. They truly believe that if ngejot is completed faithfully each morning that when they enter into their kitchen, all the negative energy they have been sent or collected will be destroyed.

Most importantly, the power of the ngejot-protected kitchen is also considered an effective way to minimalise an attack of niskala from the world of the spirits who live parallel to the world of the Balinese.

A Balinese woman remains strong throughout the challenges of her life because she is protected by the results of this morning prayer. Her determination and resilience along with the practice of Ngejot keeps her family safe from harm. Ngejot; the ritual a Balinese woman will never forget.

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