Ten-year-old Ni Wayan Sumiati seemed excited to be dressed in white fabric, with a yellow scarf tied around her waist, just like her five friends. After getting done with their costumes, the girls put on headdresses.
The day was April 19, the last day of the Api Wali Bhatara Sri ritual – a ritual honoring the goddess of prosperity prior to the harvest time, in which villagers perform a sacred dance called Sanghyang Dedari.
The dance, which was declared a world heritage by UNESCO in 2015, is a sacred Balinese dance that is related to Balinese rice culture. The ritual is held to honor the goddess in the hopes she will grant a good harvest.
The Sanghyang Dedari used to be danced in several villages in Bali. One of the most famous and memorable was a dance performed at Bona village. However, this tradition has unfortunately largely vanished.
Fortunately, in Geriana Kauh, Selat Duda, in Karangasem regency – which is located near Mount Agung – the dance has been preserved despite changes in land use to make way for the development of industry and tourism in Bali.
The Sanghyang Dedari dance is performed by young girls aged between 7 and 12 before they reach puberty. They are considered the personification of purity. During the ritual, the girls are somewhat possessed and in a state of trance, which enables them to do things fearlessly. After performing the dance, the girls are left not remembering what they have just done.
After 30 years of nearly being extinct as a tradition, the Sanghyang Dedari dance has been revived by the locals. In the past decade, they have practiced the tradition, which they believe can cast away bad deeds. [yan]