For tourists, Balinese temple ceremonies may seem like a fun, bewitching show to see. But for the locals, all the rituals, colors, ornaments, and processions actually mean something. Some ceremonies are actually very sacred, where no visitors are allowed to witness the procession. Before planning your awesome cultural experience, make sure you know when and where you will be welcomed. The Ngaben cremation ceremony and Galungan, for example, can usually be attended by tourists, as long as you show respect and show up appropriately.
Ideally, even tourists can make an effort to wear correct traditional attire when attending temple ceremonies. This way, not only will you show respect, but you also get to experience the ceremony in its full context, as most elements of the dress do have specific spiritual meaning and purpose. Plus, it helps you blend in and not cause a distraction to other attendees for dressing differently.
Traditional dresses can be bought or rented from virtually anywhere across the island. In case you have trouble finding one, at least try to put on a sarong and a modest, non-revealing top. If you think you can do more, men can add a batik headdress and women can try wearing the cloth belt around the belly.
Balinese Hindu has several taboos concerning when someone may or may not attend a temple ceremony. Women are not allowed in the temple during menstruation, as well as anyone with open wounds. Prohibition also applies to those in the period of mourning or giving birth. According to the custom, this period lasts 42 days.
Balinese Hindu celebrate dozens of different ceremonies with different meanings, customs, and processions. Ideally, you’d want to research about the specific ceremony you’re planning to attend. Purification rituals, for example, are different from full moon ceremonies. Collecting information about a specific ceremony beforehand will give you a context on what’s going on and what the procession symbolizes.
Is this ceremony more of a solemn meditation or celebratory? What degree of participation will I be allowed; attending or observing? It would be much better to know beforehand if, for example, the ceremony you’re attending involves bathing in a purification pool so you can prepare accordingly.
Some of these points may seem obvious but that only makes them worth stressing, because violating these may lead to serious offenses and failures. Do not walk in front of people when they’re facing the shrine or when they are praying. When taking pictures, do not use flash or push in at an inconvenient angle that you know may get in the way of other people doing their thing.