Warding off Bad Luck

The compound courtyard of the island's largest clan-based organization, Maha Gotra Pasek Sanak Sapta Rsi (MGPSSR), in north Denpasar's village of Kedua, was packed with hundreds of people one Saturday morning.

It was organizing the Sapuh Leger, a purification ritual reserved for those born on inauspicious days. Five-hundred-and-forty-five individuals were participating in the ritual and each of them brought two to five family members to witness the rite, taking the crowd to around 2,000 people.

In the center of the courtyard, two high priests sat on an elevated stage filled with ritual paraphernalia. Rows of wayang kulit - two dimensional, flat puppets made of carved cow leather - were arranged horizontally across the front of the stage.

Unlike the traditional wayang kulit show where a white screen separates wayang kulit from the audience, there was no screen, giving the audience full view of the beauty and intricate details of each wayang kulit character.

The screen was replaced by a string of white threads tied on two dapdap sticks that flanked the wayang characters. Dapdap is known in Bali as kayu sakti, a plant with a potent supernatural power.

Wayang kulit is the central and unique element of the Sapuh Leger purification ritual.

"This special ritual is based on several scriptures that detailed the supernatural powers of wayang kulit and the ability of the Dalang [puppeteer] to carry out exorcism and healing," MGPSSR executive Pasek Winastera said.

The scriptures narrated the story of Kala, the destructive son of Siwa. Siwa gives Kala the right to devour every creature borne on Wuku Wayang. Wuku is the seven day unit on the Balinese calendar.

There are 30 different Wuku that form a cycle of 210 days. Almost all Balinese Hinduism major religious rituals, including Galungan and Kuningan, are held once every 210 days.

"Once Kala chased Pancakumara, a little boy who was born on Wuku Wayang. The boy took refuge behind the back of Mpu Leger, a Dalang who was about to start a wayang kulit show. The ensuing performance deeply touched Kala that he abandoned his pursuit," Pasek Winastera added.

The Balinese believe that those born on Wuku Wayang will be haunted by many misfortunes. The Sapuh Leger ritual is an effort to ward them off.

One of the participants was Made Bawa aka Lolot, a famous local celebrity known for combining critical lyrics in Balinese language with gripping hard rock melodies.

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