Traditional Balinese mud bath draws the crowds


Denpasar (Indonesia) (AFP)

A day after Indonesia's holiday island of Bali fell quiet for the annual "Day of Silence" festival, hundreds joined a mud bath purification ritual which has been recently revived after a sixty-year hiatus.

The mud bath, known locally as Mebuug-buugan, is believed to purify and remove bad luck and negative energy.

Men, women and children, wearing sarongs and traditional head gear, collected lumps of mud from a mangrove forest in Kedonganan village, just outside the town of Denpasar on Friday, and smeared themselves as part of the purification ritual.

It comes a day after Nyepi, a Balinese festival where Hindus -- plus non-Hindus and tourists on the island -- are expected to stay home and self-reflect, while flights, lights and the internet are all stopped.

In the past, participants were naked during the mud festivities, but in the mid-twentieth century locals grew more uncomfortable with public nudity.

The festivities were halted for six decades, until being revived three years ago -- on the understanding that the concept of the ritual would change so participants were allowed to wear clothes.

Villagers of all ages smeared mud on anyone in the vicinity, after praying for safety and good fortunes.

After the mud bath ritual they headed to the nearest beach together to rinse the dirt and ward off evil spirits.

The ritual has been popular since its return, and dozens of tourists watched on the sidelines and snapped pictures to capture the moments which once disappeared for decades.

On Wednesday, a day before Nyepi, the island held its annual ritual to ward off demons and evil spirits.

In the parade, colourful effigies known as Ogoh-Ogoh were paraded through the streets before being burned, representing renewal and purification.

Indonesia is a Muslim-majority country but more than 80 percent of Bali's population identify as Hindu and practice a local version of the religion.