Top 5 full moon rituals in Bali

There's a reason Bali is known as the 'Island of the Gods.' Here we explore the intimate connection between the full moon and the area's sacred rites and ceremonies, and how you can recreate them on your holiday
Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan
Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan. Photo: Press release

One of the planet’s most popular holiday destinations, Bali isn’t just about tropical beaches, surfing, and awesome sunsets. This 'Island of the Gods' is just that – hundreds of them, interwoven in a unique ancient and mystical culture, with Hinduism being the predominant religion

The combined influence of Balinese Hinduism and culture permeates through every aspect of daily life and traditions – imbuing Bali with a distinct and integral spiritual richness and cultural fusion not found anywhere else.

Not a single day goes by without a ceremony, festival or ritual taking place across the island, where locals make ceremonial offerings to the Gods and spirits to honour the cycle of life, express gratitude and restore balance between the Gods, man and nature. One of the most sacred days in the Balinese Hindu calendar is the full moon, or 'Purnama,' when the moon is believed to yield its strongest energy and is at its most auspicious, powerful and magical. Thus temple ceremonies or other kinds of religious celebrations and rituals held on full moon days are one of the month’s – and island’s – most important, when the Balinese thank the Gods for their protection, counter negative forces, wash away sins and celebrate 'Rwa Binneda' – the co-existence of two energies of life; good and evil, darkness and brightness.

The following full moon activities take place at tourist spots and hotels; this works out more expensive than going native and doing the same with the locals in traditional villages. However, the formal establishments give insightful instructions and explanations in English (nothing lost in translation here), all contributing to a fascinating interactive cultural experience – and take-home Balinese memories.

Time your trip to Indonesia just right with the help of Insight Guides' local experts: submit a holiday request today to get your plans started. Alternatively, review suggested itineraries online: this Indonesian Island Hop holiday takes in spiritual Bali, temples and surrounding islands.

Soul Purification, The Ritz-Carlton Bali (Nusa Dua). Photo: Press releaseA participant during a soul purification ceremony. Photo: Press release/The Ritz-Carlton Bali (Nusa Dua)

Purify the soul in Bali

Melukat is a purification ritual that's also a uniquely Balinese experience. (It's actually an ancient prayer ritual to purify mind and body.) Taking place at temples, shrines, or beside the ocean, Melukats are performed when entering a new phase in life, recovering from sickness, or celebrating rites of passage, such as marriage. The Ritz-Carlton, Bali – in Nusa Dua’s upmarket resort complex – offers an authentic Melukat. With their 'Soul Purification Ritual,' both guests and outsiders can not only participate in an important religious tradition, but embark (hopefully) on a spiritual journey of self-discovery and enrichment.

Like all acts of Balinese Hindu worship, Melukat centres around holy water – an agent of the power of the Gods – which is believed to cleanse spiritual impurities, fend off evil forces and render the recipient immune to the attacks of negative influences. Unusually, this purification ceremony takes place just after sunrise, or around 7am, when the full moon is said to be at its most powerful. It's also the most sacred time of day for devotions – and when just-risen Surya, the Sun God, commands offerings for fresh new beginnings.

The ocean is revered as a source of energy and life with transformative powers and a medium for spiritual renewal, healing and rejuvenation; its salty water is also believed to cleanse away evil and bad energy. Thus this Melukat is performed on the resort's pristine white sands, where participants kneel on a woven mat behind the Pemangku (local priest), who faces the Indian Ocean accompanied by his Sutri (assistant) and piles of fruit, flowers and incense offerings. A Ritz-Carlton staff member helps you into a sarong and sash, a prerequisite for ceremonial worship and through the entire semi-confusing ritual. First, a series of prayers and devotions to the Gods (with palms pressed together, thumbs touching the forehead and hands raised high with fingers pointing upwards), followed by a ‘Tepung Tawar’ ritual, cleansing the body, mind and soul with holy water (a mix of young coconut, temple and sea water), washing your hands, feet, face and head, then drinking the water from cupped palms, repeated three times. Here, highly symbolic rituals of brushing an egg and then flowers over the hands, tearing of a palm leaf basket and rice grains stuck on the 'third-eye' and neck chakras are administered.

Finally, the Pemangku ties a Benang Tridatu string around your wrist; the red, white and black- coloured threads symbolizing the manifestations of the three main Hindu Gods and quest for balance, harmony and understanding, with a red blessing thread around your big toe – these, worn until they drop-off. After that, it’s high time for breakfast; the resort thoughtfully provides traditional cakes and a pot of coffee to enjoy down on the sands.

Soul Purification Ritual costs IDR1,500,000++ (48-hours advance reservations).

Soul Purification, The Ritz-Carlton Bali (Nusa Dua). Photo: Press release

A soul purification ceremony at The Ritz-Carlton Bali (Nusa Dua). Photo: Press release

Massage by moonlight

Stressed-out souls should head for the hills, preferably Ubud, the island’s spiritual, arts and cultural epicentre in the highlands. The spectacular setting, high atop the Ayung River gorge and surrounded by dense rainforest, is reminiscent of an Indiana Jones movie. At rustic yet upscale Alila Ubud, 'Moonlight Remedies' are only available during the full moon’s five-day cycle: a two-hour alternative spa treatment specifically created to harness positive lunar energy and nature’s rhythms, promoting healing and spiritual growth.

Moonlight Remedies take place at the resort's uppermost levels, on jungle-fringed manicured lawns offering jaw-dropping ravine views that are open to the elements – and full moon – but still have a modicum of privacy (and protection) within an open-sided canopy, circled by flickering candles. This starts around 7pm with traditional Hindu prayers chanted to relieve stress, calm fears and reduce anxiety, instilling a sense of physical and mental well-being.

Participants have a choice of one of four age-old massage therapies, combining gentle stretching, long therapeutic strokes, and pressure techniques. Alila’s Signature Recovery Massage, with Balinese traditions; Swedish deep tissue massage and acupressure; Chinese Reflexology, which applies pressure to specific feet and hand points for improved energy flow; or stimulating Indian Head Massage, which reduces stress and boosts vitality. The therapists, who are trained in anatomical physiology, reveal strong hands that soothe away nasty tensions and stresses. This concludes with techniques rooted in Reiki spiritual traditions, to harmonize the body, resulting in a wonderfully uplifting experience for inner peace, and mind and body relaxation.

Moonlight Remedies costs USD125++ per person.

Alila Moonlight Remedies. Photo: Press releaseAlila Moonlight Remedies. Photo: Press release

Full moon couple's therapy

If you and your beloved seek divine intervention, your prayers may be answered at The Oberoi, Bali, one of Seminyak’s oldest resorts that still evokes a rustic Balinese ambiance. The beach frontage is considered one of Bali’s holiest and spiritually powerful – Hindu ceremonies regularly take place here – and the tropical, landscaped gardens are dotted with Hindu temples and shrines. It's the perfect spot for couples to participate in a 'Full Moon Celebration;' part of their 'Oberoi Experiences' and available exclusively for in-house guests.

In two parts, this commences with a traditional full moon ceremony, held at The Oberoi’s own temple compound. Attired in sarong and sash, couples actually join other guests and Hindu resort staff, several of the latter guiding you through the 30-minute ritual (with a step-by-step instruction booklet and personal canang offerings tray). The Pemangku hypnotically chants prayers and presents offerings to the Gods, before worshippers participate in a series of prayer rituals and are then given individual blessings for health, happiness, prosperity and a harmonious life; the priest will repeatedly sprinkle holy temple water over your head and you then drink this from cupped palms. Post-ceremony, still adorned with rice grains, you’re probably all set for part two: dinner served al fresco on beachfront gardens. Secluded from the main resort in an utterly peaceful coconut grove setting, this dining a deux is decorated with bamboo, palm fronds and ceremonial parasols – illuminated by a full moon. Attended by discreet waiting staff, the Megibung dinner dates back centuries to times of battle, but is still served at important rural ceremonies; small plates of dishes ceremoniously served on a huge tray include Sate Lilit (minced fish satay), while an alternative Megibung menu showcases Bali’s iconic Babi Guling – spit-roasted, spiced suckling pig.

Full Moon Celebration (weather permitting) costs USD250++per couple, not available to outside guests.

Prayer offerings at the Oberoi Bali Hotel. Photo: Press releasePrayer offerings at the Oberoi Bali Hotel. Photo: Press release

Strike a (sacred) pose

Riverside yoga underneath a full moon sounds far more inspiring than your standard, sweaty yoga studios! It's possible, courtesy of the Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan, where luxurious facilities and villas tumble down a river gorge to the banks of Ubud’s Ayung River. The Four Seasons Sacred River Spa offers a far more spiritually and wellness-inclined experience for body and soul, with ancient Balinese rituals, holistic treatments and spiritual practices promising to 'a sense of spiritual connections powerful enough to affect physical change and balance and restore inner energies.' Their once-a-month Full Moon Purnama Yoga invites all to embrace this important day of uplifting energy and power (albeit with five-star comforts), practicing yoga on the Dharma Shanti River Terrace – a timbered open-air deck perched on the riverbank above the fast-flowing river, surrounded by rice fields and luscious greenery.

Accompanied by nocturnal jungle sounds, with the moon and twinkling stars overhead, this magical, one-hour evening yoga session enables yogis to honour the 'yin' (the divine feminine side of one’s energy) with moon salutations before shifting energy and counterbalancing the 'yang' (the masculine nature) with classical sun salutations. The moon salutations allegedly cool-down fiery impulses and 'hot' emotions, while connecting with the purnama’s energy – allowing creative energies to flow!

Full Moon Yoga (weather permitting) is complimentary for Four Season guests; non-residents pay IDR300, 000++ per person.

Four Seasons Bali at Sayan. Yoga at Moonlight. Photo: Press releaseFour Seasons Bali at Sayan offers yoga sessions in the moonlight. Photo: Press release

Leap of faith

After maximizing the moon’s re-energising powers, perhaps it’s time to learn something new and alternative. Desa Seni, A village resort in coastal Canggu, may be the ideal place; eco-conscious and community-committed, it offers authentic Balinese and Indonesian cultural and spiritual experiences, with an aim to preserve the island’s heritage and culture. Amongst diminishing rice fields, this rustic-boho, award-winning boutique gem evokes a Balinese village ambiance in exquisite gardens. Focusing on native wellness and spirituality, it's one of Bali’s premier and accredited yoga centres.

At their once-monthly Full Moon Events, you are welcome to join in new and life-changing activities – many of which are not covered elsewhere on the island. These one-hour-plus evening sessions showcase Indonesian or Western- influenced aspects of yoga, music and dance, or holistic wellness, instructed by expert teachers and practitioners at an open-air timbered yoga studio. Get ready for Full Moon Kirtan or Bhajan devotional singing, tantric experiences connecting your inner-self to lunar rhythms, full moon dance, Mandala art classes, and fire cleansing ceremonies. Lesser-known disciplines cover Sophrojogy, a structured method for optimal health and well-being, and SpiritDance SoulSong, a movement meditation practice using dance, sound and voice as a 'physical and metaphysical workout for body and spirit.' In Desa Seni’s true community spirit, Full Moon Events are open to all and are donation-based, contributing to local charitable causes. 

DESA SENI  healing circle. Photo: Press releaseDESA SENI healing circle. Photo: Press release

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