In the small village of Demulih, a group of devotees in a Hindu temple eagerly await the arrival of Ida Resi Alit, the youngest high priestess of the Indonesian island of Bali, who conducts the purification ceremony.
Around 20 women – most of them dressed in sarongs (a fabric wrapped round the waist) and kebayas (traditional Javanese blouse) – and one man meditate before a water ritual carries away bad energies, negative thoughts and past problems, making room for the new.
Ida Resi, 31, pours water on the visitors with a metal container while reciting mantras and instructing them to let go of the emotions inside, to express them and to breathe.
Melukat is a traditional blessing ceremony done in Bali and the purification with water is like taking a shower with which one cleanses the body and, at the same time, the soul, Ida Resi tells EFE inside the temple.
The priestess, who was ordained the high priestess by the Hindu organization, Parisada Hindu Dharma Indonesia, 10 years ago, explains that she performs the ceremony every day, usually with groups of 20-50 people.
The ceremony is free but visitors can make donations of any amount.
Ida Resi’s fame – she has been invited to events such as the World Economic Forum on East Asia 2015 and the New Earth Festival 2017, held in Jakarta and Bali respectively – arises not so much from her post but more owing to the peculiarity of her case.
Greek engineer Maria Kellis, who holds a PhD in mysticism and spiritual healing, and who is writing a book on Ida Resi’s life, tells EFE that the post of a high priest is usually occupied by men, while their wives automatically become high priestesses and, therefore, it is very rare for a single woman to occupy the post.
After graduating from college, Ida Resi tried to find work on Bintan Island, a popular tourist destination for wealthy Singaporeans, but failed to do so and returned to Bali, suffering from depression.
Her grandfather, the village priest, initiated her into the practice of meditation and yoga.
Ida Resi explains that, one day, after having a near-death experience, she began reciting mantras without ever having studied them before, which caught the attention of the high priests.
She was named high priestess, despite being unmarried, on Mar. 14, 2007, the day she turned 21, making her the youngest women to hold the post – the average age to do so is between 60-70 years.
According to Kellis, Ida Resi is a model for Balinese women, who often suffer gender inequality and societal restrictions, and she serves to spark change in society from within.
Meanwhile, the youngest priestess of Bali, who seems quite unaffected by her fame among tourists nor concerned about money, says her mission is to build an ashram (meditation center), where she can share her wisdom with the rest of the world.