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A Hindu priest


A Hindu priest

•    an archaka conducting ritual worship at a Hindu temple
•    a Vedic purohita

Traditionally, priests have come from the Brahmin varna, although in various parts of India, people from other communities (such as Lingayats in parts of Karnataka) have performed the function. In modern times, archakas have been recruited from various communities with lesser regard to caste.

Hindu priests are known to perform services often referred to as puja. Priests are identified as pandits or pujaris amongst devotees. Priests were the instigating factor to why ordinary people of Hindu religion became indulged severely in a devotional path. Hindu priests through their extended knowledge of the literature, the Bhagavad Gita and theRamayana were able to encourage the Hindu community’s devotion to Hindu deities.


Their primary responsibility is to conduct daily prayers (puja) at the temple. During Hindu festivals, traditional events such as weddings, the sacred thread ceremony, performance of last rites and special deity ceremonies, priests are called upon to conduct puja’s either at the temple or at the location of the event. In order to perform these puja’s, the priests are required to have prior skills and knowledge. To be a qualified priest, they must know the required chants (mantras and strotas) fluently in Sanskrit and be familiar with the materials required to perform the puja for various ceremonies and rituals. Pandits from an early age were trained to memorize hymns in order to chant them during rituals and ceremonies without aid. Receiving assistance to remember hymns and chants was frowned upon, and were only expected to recite the hymns through memory.

Required qualifications

The required qualification to be a priest is that the person is a Brahmin. But the word Brahmin needs to defined carefully. Here the word Brahmin refers to Brahmin varna. In common usage however, the word Brahmin refers to a group of castes. There is no authority for the notion of the birth based caste system in authoritative Hindu scriptures. Even a person born in a “low-caste” family can become a Brahmin if he acquires the necessary knowledge and is eligible to be appointed as a priest.

Daily routine

Daily routines of Hindu priests would consist of prayers as much as four to six times per day and perhaps even more. Every morning pandits are in charge of bathing the deity with water and milk, clothing the deity with traditional wear and jewellery. After conducting the ritual, the priest offers food to devotees after it has been presented in front of the god referred to as prasad. Whilst food is being handed out, the priests as well as the devotees engage in singing prayers praising the deity. The priests finally conclude with an arthi(lighted camphor) shown to the deity and held in the presence of the devotees to receive dharshan(blessing). A Hindu priest would repeat this routine every day as a part of their responsibility in servicing god.



Ida Panditha Mpu Budha Mahaseri Alit Parama Daksa, also known as Ida Resi Alit, was born I Komang Widiantri on March 14, 1986, in a small farming village in the central highlands of Bali. She lived as an ordinary girl for the first twenty years of her life. At the age of 20, due to external events, she fell into a deep depression. Ida Resi Alit’s uncle, a village Mangku, concerned for her wellbeing, introduced her to meditation and yoga to soothe her. As she started practicing, the girl who had no previous spiritual training or deep desire, began to have out of body experiences and download information during her practice. She was instructed to perform a special ceremony, the meaning of which she did not understand. At the ceremony she fell into deep unconsciousness. She stopped breathing and her pulse was gone. Her family wailed, crying and reacting hysterically, scared that she had died. Ida Resi Alit has no memory of this time. At 2am she started to regain consciousness, to be able to blink but not to talk. Then she saw a laser, like a bolt of lightning in the sky, and found herself able to fully return to her body. She slept until the afternoon and when she had awakened spiritually. Soon after she was ordained by the highest authority, the Hindu Dharma Council, and she became Bali’s youngest and only High Priestess.

This month I-mag traveled to Demulih, Susut, Bangli a second time to have an audience with the high priestess. When we sat down with her on the floor in front of her small personal bale, she talked about wanting to expand, and share her experience of oneness. Right now she is in the beginning stages of sending her energy out in the world.

“One day I would like to travel. But right now I want to start here in my home. This place is all from my ancestor. I’ll start from here and maybe expand step by step. I cannot just keep to myself. But I need people to help me how to, share the story, to write, to teach. If my friends want to, to share about everything. I need some people who can help me.”

Ida Resi Alit is preparing for the world stage. Other such figures, Thich Nhat Hanh, Vietnamese and of the peace movement, the Dalai Lama of Tibet or Eckhart Tolle, have large groups around them who help spread their teaching and report back to the masters. Ida Resi Alit maintains that all knowledge is available and in every single one of us at any moment, if we so choose to feel it and enjoy our limitless power as we are connected to all.
There is no rush, unlike what most of us feel in our daily lives. Resi Alit says, “I will need a long time. A long long time.” Everything takes place in the present moment, even learning from the past and planning for the future. Or worry or being anxious or afraid, if that’s what we choose to do! It is a blessing for us to be able to witness and take part of the growth of a major spiritual leader.

“I need some people who can help me. Like disciples. I will keep doing my yoga and everything. Many people teaching yoga, they have the basics. But it is just for excersize. I think I need to teach yoga, and I will teach people who will become yoga teacher, like that. I need people for this positions, that position and so on, then open for others to come in, open for all people, and then the teachers teach other people until then go out, maybe once a week meet me. We make a program, one time we share, I meet them like this.”

Ida Resi Alit has not yet started looking for land for her Ashram, but that is the first step. For now she is doing her own practice and the many purification ceremonies and events for the Balinese community.  We took part in another purification ceremony this month. After her sunset prayers, she sat on her knees on the temple bale. Using water exquisitely scented of jasmine and frangipani, that tasted as sweet as it smelled, she doused us with buckets of what felt like icy water. “Whatever you feel, like let it go. Let it all go. If you want to cry, if you want to shout, stomp your feet, whatever.” We both had the experience of hyperventilating despite our tropical setting. Afterwards we both said we felt lighter. I was acutely aware of being in the presence of limitless energy, and felt about as spiritually ready for it as I would be for the Olympic marathon. But after realizing this, it allows some sort of space to let light in. Luckily for us lot, we don’t have to train as hard for a marathon as we do to feel grateful and ready to receive gifts of consciousness. We just have to be humble, ever so slightly willing, and ready.
Ida Resi Alit graciously invited us to return in a few days to accompany her to ceremony at her family temple, called Sugihan. The Balinese have three ceremonies to balance the universe; one to balance the relationship between people and people, one to balance the relationship between people and the Gods, and one for the relationship between people and the earth- this last is Sugihan. We arrived at the home of Resi Alit, and traveled in the car with her and her two Mangkus, or priests. When we arrived at the temple complex in Gianyar, Resi Alit took her place atop the platform for prayer in the front of the congregation. She changed into her formal dress and started the bell, the incense, her hand mudras and the mantra. A Balinese women next to me said, “Resi Alit, she is like a miracle. Every ceremony has a different mantra, and she knows them all by heart without ever studying.”
Then what took place was without precedence in anything I had ever seen before. Ida Resi Alit, open to the unlimited power and energy of the universe, prayed and chanted, receiving direct information. She would share information with her Mangkus, who would then inform the congregation of her wishes. One Mangku chanted loudly over the PA system. A puppeteer wailing behind us. A topeng dance was taking place in the entrance section of the temple, obscured behind the walls. Children screamed and giggled and women chatted, men sipped coffee.
Resi Alit share with us after her ceremony her experience, “In Bali, there are the four directions, north, west, east and south. We must take the energy from each, and balance them. I do this with the ceremony, I feel what must be done, and in this way I communicate with the Mangku, and they tell the community what must be done.”
When she was done we shared a meal of vegetables and babi, or pig. She had a large meeting with the village priests, where they laughed and sipped sugary tea sitting together in a cowd in the shade. On the way home in the car, her priest did voice imitations of puppet shows from the back seat, alternating between the typical low gutteral characters, the jokers and the strange-voiced ladies of the sagas.
We giggled on the way home as they went back and forth, Resi Alit singing in a beautiful high wail and the mischevious Mangku producing a sound I’d only ever heard through a loud speaker at a Balinese temple. It felt almost eerie to hear it while driving in a car with friend.
A movement has started in Bali. It may take years to manifest, but you’ll hear about it again, in different forms, one way or another. When asked what we should write in the magazine about her message, what people should know, Ida Resi Alit just said, “Whatever you feel, write that.” She then started speaking in astro, a language not English, not Indonesian, not Balinese and not even Ancient Sanskrit, that she uses freely whenever she feel she can’t explain something important properly. It’s in our breath, and from breath, come the voice, and we use it to share and receive. It starts in the stomach, where we usually feel fear and anxiety churning up our breakfast. Every ounce of love and enjoyment in available right now in the moment, to everyone, whether you want it or not. Nothing new, really. Its just a matter of freedom.

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