Destinations in Indonesia
Mandi Balimau Kasai Potang Mogang: The Self-purification Ceremony in Pelalawan
Indonesia is well known as a country rich in tradition and cultural customs that have been handed down for centuries, from generation to generation. Despite rapidly changing times, many traditions remain unchanged, strongly rooted to an age-old culture. One such example can be found in Pelalawan, a District in the Riau Province, which has as district capital Pangkalan Kerinci. Communities in this district remain true to an ancient tradition known as Mandi Balimau Kasai Potang Mogang.
Mandi Balimau is a self-purification ceremony which takes place each year to welcome the holy month of Ramadhan. Aside from symbolizing the cleansing of the soul, Mandi Balimau also expresses a spirit of gratitude and thanksgiving for the upcoming Fasting Month. In the local language, mandi means shower, balimau means a bath with water and lime, and kasai means fragrance of spices. The Pelalawan community believes that the act of physical cleansing results in a parallel spiritual cleansing of the heart and mind from any kind of evil thoughts, ill will or envy.
Kasai Balimau has been an on-going tradition for hundreds of years. According to the Pelalawan locals, the tradition originated from a custom practiced by the Pelalawan King of the time, while others believe the ceremony has been part of the Islam-Hindu religion since the time of the Muara Takus Kingdom. Other provinces in neigboring West Sumatra also observe a similar tradition.
The ceremony begins after Sholat Ashar, which is the Islamic Afternoon Prayer, and is then followed by makan bejambau , where government officials, religious leaders, community heads, traditional elders and scholars will gather for a meal together. Following the evening banquet is the flag-raising ceremony. One by one, the flag of each tribe will be raised to show that there are no problems within that tribe’s community. When all flags have been hoisted to the top of their masts, all residents and community leaders walk together in procession across a distance of about 1.5 kilometers to an area dubbed the Mecca Veranda, where the Kasai Balimau ceremony will take place.
When the procession reaches the banks of the Kampar River, the community enters the waters together to bathe, using water mixed with lemon or lime. After the ritual cleansing, community leaders offer greetings to each other as an expression and request for mutual forgiveness for any wrongdoings committed in the past.
Once the religious ceremony is completed, local residents and tourists alike can enjoy a variety of traditional festivities including decorative canoe races, traditional arts and dangdut music performances.
The ritual takes place each year at the Kampar River on the day before the fasting month begins.