Our contributor Keyza Widiatmika reminisces about the beginning of 2017 in Suwat Village before this year ends...
Fireworks paint the night sky, people cheer and it is no time for crying. The sound of firecrackers makes the streets more alive and the neighborhood is filled with faces full of smiles. The beginning of New Year is almost always a picturesque night as most people worldwide celebrate it with fireworks and parties. However, the people in Suwat Village in Gianyar regency have a different kind of celebration. To mark the start of a New Year, they hold a water war, which is quite the opposite to the rest of the world as water never gets along with fire.
It was the beginning of 2017 when I witnessed the water wars. Titled the “Suwat Water Festival”, the event was hosted for the second time after 2015 to celebrate the change of the year over several days – the celebration began from December 29, 2016 to January 2, 2017 with Siat Yeh or the Water Wars that fell on January 1, 2017 as the peak of the festival.
It was 8 a.m. on January 1, 2017 when I arrived at the village and people were already praying together at the intersection near Melanting Temple of Suwat Village. The intersection is the symbol of the four directions of the wind; North, East, West and South. People prayed there with the hope of getting a blessing from God from all directions.
Then, some women from the village collected a number of jugs containing water that was purified by Pemangku (a Balinese priest). The water was collected the day before from Melagge River that flows by the east side of Dalem Temple; some was then poured into clay jugs while some was stored in buckets. A couple of minutes later, the festival started with an opening performance by the Pancer Langit dance group. The audience circled around the dancers, many of them swayed to the left and right, following the rhythm. They all let out a laugh, but their hands were holding weapons; the water scoops. When the dancers ended the dance by cracking some of the jugs with their heads, the street suddenly turned into a battlefield as the water war broke and people started to scoop and splash water from the buckets. Surely, they did it with a lot of joy.
“Yeh . . . Cedok . . . Yeh . . . Cedok,” the people chanted as they threw water at their opponents. I watched them with excitement yet got more curious at the same time about this festival. Among the crowd, I found Putu Oka Mahendra, the Project Officer of the 2nd Suwat Water Festival. He explained that the villagers wanted to welcome the New Year with melukat or self-purifying ceremony, hoping to be a better person. “The main source of this water is taken from within our own village,” Putu Oka explained further. “After going through some research, we found water sources with excellent quality right here in our village. And with the water being purified, we hope we will have a pure mind and soul in the New Year and the following years.”
He also added that the Suwat Water Festival was initially only held by local people from the Suwat Village, but soon became more popular with participants from other villages. In fact, some were even from overseas. “The enthusiasm of people to join this festival is pretty high. We are open to everyone who wants to celebrate the New Year water war with us,” he added. Are you interested?
Contributor : Keyza Widiatmika
Magazine issue > Craft&Culture