On the 1st of May 2022, a Russian influencer published a photo on social media of herself posing naked in the roots of a scared Bayan tree. The influencer, who goes by the name Alina Yogi online, caused uproar in the communities surrounding Babakan Temple in Tua Village in Tabanan. This incident came to add insult to injury after another foreigner was caught dancing naked at the summit of Mount Batur earlier in the month.
Following investigations from the Marga Police Department, Alina Yogi has been fully cooperative and has taken strides to make amends for what she claims was an innocent mistake. According to I Made Kurna Wijaya, an interpreter who has been working on the case on the behalf of the Babakan Temple, Alina insists that she did not know that the tree or the grounds were a sacred place, nor that nudity was not only illegal but sacrilegious. She was joined by her husband during questioning by the local police. It is understood that it was her husband who joined her during the 10-minute photo shoot.
Local reports suggest that the case is being handled with amicability and fairness. Alina has committed to pay for any costs incurred in performing a full cleansing ritual at the temple and the tree itself. Following her time at the police station, she and her husband joined the temple’s priest to pray at the tree and apologize for her actions. It seems that this willingness to make amends is going a long way in ensuring that the criminal investigation does not escalate further.
The community response has been positive too. Since she is willing to pay for costs involved in completing a cleaning ritual, being cooperative about the community’s wishes and needs, and openness in her apology for her actions, it appears as though on this occasion no criminal charges may not be lodged. The case is still open so there may be further investigations, but if the community is satisfied that justice has been served then it is likely that the case will be closed.
According to one report, the ceremony to restore the sacristy of the tree has already been completed. Although there may be more ceremonies in the coming months to honor the tree further. Devoted Balinese Hindus make offerings three times daily, at 6 am, 12 pm, and 6 pm. These are considered to be ‘transition times’ where the low spirits are most active. People make puja at these times to protect themselves from the low spirits who may do them harm.
Temple management and the local community members are said to have held a meeting to discuss the cleansing ceremony and what actions must be taken to ensure that incidences like this cannot happen again. It is believed that Alina Yogi accessed the temple grounds in the early hours before the temple was open to the public and security staff were on duty. Solutions may include clearer signage or having community members present at the temple earlier in the day.
There are only a few rules to respect when entering a Balinese temple. Visitors and worshippers of all genders must wear a sarong around their waist and those who are menstruating are not allowed to enter the premises. There are some temples, or areas of temples, where it is forbidden to take photos, videos, eat or drink. If in doubt it is always best to refrain from these activities or talk to one of the temple keepers.
It is likely that this case and the attention that it has bought online will serve as a reminder to visitors of all kinds to Bali, and to Balinese temples specifically, that sacred spaces must be respected; that they are not spaces conveniently designed for photoshoots, in spite of their highly photogenic nature.
Although Bali is opening up to tourism following the pandemic, communities across Bali are working hard to ensure that these kinds of incidences are handled seriously. They will waste no time in involving the police and immigration departments to ensure that justice is served. Both locals and long-term international residents in Bali are keen to ensure that the island’s unique culture and rich heritage are celebrated, respected, and protected.
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