Ida Bagus blesses our books
with incense, rice, petals
Today is a special day in the Vedic calendar, Saraswati day. Sri Saraswati is considered the mother of the Vedas, the goddess of knowledge, music, arts, science and technology. Her name comes from saras, the flow of water, plus wati, woman, so she represents the flow of knowledge, which is captivating, like a beautiful woman. Oddly, we are not allowed to write or read on this day. In the morning I see Ida Bagus getting ready for an obachar, a ceremony to honor Sri Saraswati. He will also do a yagya to bless all the books within the walls of the family natah, including the poetry books that Robin and I have had printed in Ubud. Robin is making a house call, so I put on a kamben, a long-sleeve top (my version of a kebaya), tie my batik pelangi around my waist and put my quartz crystal mala around my neck. Then I follow the pemangku around as he makes offerings to the many small shrines inside the sanggah kemulan, the family temple area. There are shrines dedicated to family ancestors, Hindu deities, the two sacred Balinese mountains, Gunung-Agung and Batur, and a large bale for yagyas. The black thatch on the shrines is sago palm, used because it looks like human hair, well, Balinese hair. There is a large statue of Lord Vishnu holding a conch in the middle of the temple area and Sri Saraswati at the entrance gate, carved from paras, a soft gray volcanic stone, and decorated with white plumeria blossoms, but Ida Bagus does not make offerings directly to them. After making the rounds of shrines, he invites me up onto the main temple bale for the yagya. He brings out a bell from a woven bag, flicks petals off the platform, chants and makes blessings with incense and water. Our poetry books are piled on one side of the altar and the priest's books on the other side, with trays of offerings in between. At the end of the yagya, he has me hold my hands together in namaste, sprinkles me with holy water and pours water into my cupped hands three times for me to drink. Then he tucks a blossom behind my right ear and in my hair. Robin and Ida Ayu join us and he repeats the personal blessing for them. Finally, we eat the traditional meal of yellow rice with small dried fish.