Bali is renowned for its bright and richly cultural ceremonies, and any visitor who spends more than a few days on the island will be certain to stumble upon a temple festival, colourful procession, or simply a village doing their ritual. Stay longer and you’ll bound to be invited to with family rituals such as birth celebrations, tooth filing ceremonies, weddings and cremations.
Aside from the above, there are also numerous island-wide religious festivals to mark sacred days according to the Balinese calendar that you can witness, or be part of.
The day of silence across Bali The month of March brings Nyepi – the day of silence throughout the whole of Bali. In the Balinese lunar calendar (Saka), Nyepi is New Year’s Day. It is a day wholly dedicated to rest, staying in, turning off the lights and keeping quiet for 24 hours. It is one of the biggest and most unique ceremonies of the year, where staying in and resting is enforced by law. It is practiced island-wide where the Balinese dedicate an entire day to introspection and spiritual cleansing. No businesses are open, no transport is allowed on the roads (except for emergency services) the airport even shuts down for 24 hours. Nyepi is a sacred day to give the island a break from 364 days of human activity, so Bali can replenish and recharge for the new year. Nyepi is a 6-day long festival, the ‘silent’ day falls on day 3 and is the most important and sacred Hindu holiday in Bali. It is also a public holiday for the rest of Indonesia.
Galungan and Kuningan
Galungan is a Balinese holiday which celebrates the victory of dharma over adharma (the triumph of good over evil). It marks the time when ancestral spirits of deceased relatives visit the Earth. The last day of the celebration is Kuningan, when they leave earth. The spirits of deceased relatives return to visit their former homes and the Balinese have a responsibility to be hospitable and welcoming to their past ancestors through prayers and offerings throughout their home. The most obvious sign of the celebrations are the penjor – bamboo poles with offerings suspended at the end which line the roads.
Pagerwesi is the day when the Balinese strengthen their minds and souls against evil forces. Pagerwesi is also called “rerainan gumi” by the Balinese and means the holiday for everyone from every background – from the families of priests to the common families.
The Balinese celebrate the Pagerwesi ceremony every six months according to the Balinese pawukon calendar, the celebration is usually three days after Saraswati. Pagerwesi derives from the two Balinese words pager and wesi, which means fence and iron. The iron fence is a symbol of strong self-protection and on pagerwesi the Balinese focus on building a strong personal fortification to ensure that evil doesn’t enter their minds, speech and deeds, to avoid harm to their surroundings.
Nowadays Tumpek Landep is a ceremonial day at which offerings are made for objects that are made of metal. The ceremonies start in the morning hours at the village temple when people gather for special prayers and blessings. Afterwards, at the home compounds, additional ceremonies and blessings follow at which offerings are made for the holy family keris that most families own, but also for cars and motorbikes. In these modern times, also other objects that contain metal, such as computers, may be subject to these ceremonies. Most Balinese people truly believe that these ceremonies and blessings will bring them luck and keep them safe in traffic. Tragically, at the day of Tumpek Landep the hospitals in Bali show a peak in the treatments of especially motorbike accidents.
In Bali there are over 4,500 temples where ceremonies take place almost every day of the year and Odalan is the celebration of each temple’s anniversary. Temple festivals are held on the anniversary of when the temple was consecrated and usually on a new or full moon.
An Odalan or temple ceremony usually lasts for three days, but larger ones, which occur every 5, 10, 30 or 100 years, can last for 11 days or longer. The gist of what is happening here is that the Balinese are honoring the deities that rule over the temple by giving them a myriad of offerings, performances of vocal music, dance and gamelan music.
Tumpek Kandang is the day to worship Sang Hyang Rare-Angon, the God of animals. The name of Tumpek Kandang is derived from two words, “Tumpek” meaning Saturday and “Kandang”, the Balinese word for the household animals such as cows, pigs, chickens, ducks, dogs, and birds – all of which are highly valued by the Balinese. On this day, pigs are usually decorated with a white cloth wrapping their bellies. The animals are then fed with special foods, sprinkled with rice and holy water and prayers are offered.
This ritual certainly is not an animal worship ritual, The Balinese consider animals as friends for life created by God as a living creature.
Full Moon is believed to be the day when God answers prayers and it is considered to be a favorable day to plant things in the garden, especially fruit plants. Purnama helps to obtain an abundant harvest the following year.
The Balinese prayers includes honouring the shadow and light to find balance in life. This play of opposing forces and the acceptance of light and dark, joy and sorrow, benevolence as well as maliciousness is called Rwa Binneda in Balinese culture.