Ni Komang Erviani, The Jakarta Post, Denpasar | Thu, 07/11/2013 9:58 AM | Headlines
On a bright Wednesday morning, with a strong wind blowing and the constant drones of aircraft taking off and landing at Ngurah Rai International Airport, a religious ceremony to consecrate the island’s first toll road was solemnly performed.
Hundreds of Balinese Hindu devotees from seven customary villages around the new toll road, which connects Benoa Harbor-Ngurah Rai International Airport-Nusa Dua, took part in the ceremony,
locally known as tawur gentuh and pemelaspasan.
The ceremony took place on the new road near the Ngurah Rai airport toll gate.
Three Hindu high priests, Ida Pedanda Gede Putra Bajing from Denpasar, Ida Pedanda Budha Jelantik Gunung Sari from Gianyar, and Ida Rsi Bujangga Wesnawa Kertha Bhuana from Gelogor Denpasar, officiated over the ceremony.
A pakelem ritual was also held in the last part of the ceremony. Pakelem is a traditional Balinese Hindu ritual that involves sacrificing live animals by drowning them in the sea. Several animals were sacrificed in the ritual, including a buffalo, a cow, a goat, a swan, a duck and several chickens.
Animal sacrifice plays an important part in numerous Balinese Hindu rituals. Hindu followers believe that through such sacrifice they will be able to appease the gods and bhutas (nature’s powers), and
simultaneously restore the balance between the physical realm of sekala and the spiritual realm of niskala.
“The ceremony is aimed at neutralizing any negative forces and spiritual imbalance created during the construction of the toll road. We hope the divine blesses the highway and protects the safety of motorists who would use it,” Bajing said.
The ceremony also symbolizes that the 12.7-kilometer toll road is ready for operation.
Many people, particularly those working in Nusa Dua and the surrounding area, are eager to use the toll road as soon as possible. “I hope the toll road opens soon. The congestion has worsened day by day,” said Made Swastini, a lecturer at Sekolah Tinggi Pariwisata (STP) tourism academy who lives in North Denpasar.
She has to spend at least 1.5 hours to two hours from her home to the academy every day, not to mention the length of time she has to spend to reach Udayana University in Denpasar in the evening, where she is enrolled on the master program.
“The toll road will be very helpful for me,” she said.
Constructed under a public-private partnership involving seven state-owned enterprises and a capital share from the provincial administration and Badung administration, the toll road is part of an expensive infrastructure overhaul designed for completion ahead of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in early October. Around 21 heads of state are expected to attend the summit. The toll road is Bali’s latest attempt to ease congestion in the south of Bali.
However, the toll road has a long history. For religious and cultural reasons, many plans to ease congestion in southern Bali had been rejected, including constructing an overpass. In 2010, the idea to construct a road along the coastal shoreline was finally agreed as congestion was worsening.
Many people, including tourists, were deplored by the congestion. A survey conducted by the Bali Tourism Agency several years ago also revealed that most tourists complained about congestion, as well as trash and poor services at Bali’s airport.
Now, when the construction of the road has been completed, many people are willing to use it. Even though construction has reached 100 percent, it will take some weeks to conduct trial operations before the official inauguration in August by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
Bali Governor Made Mangku Pastika, when attending the religious ceremony, also said he hoped the toll road could begin operations soon. “We hope the toll road can be inaugurated by the President on Aug. 14, a good day for Bali as it coincide with the Pagerwesi sacred day and the anniversary of Bali province,” he said.