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Balinese Festivals

Balinese Festivals

Balinese Festivals Overview

One basic principal of Hindu belief is that the universe is structured - things do not happen randomly and it is essential that a balance be maintained between order and disorder. Spirits are everywhere and ultimately control nature and as such these spirits must be worshipped regularly in order to maintain said balance. Rituals, festivals and ceremonies are the way the Balinese maintain this order. These festivals have great meaning and are a part of the seence of the Balinese culture.

There are other festivals as well, instituted by the government or other organisations to maintain and preserver certain cultural aspects of Balinese life. The most prominent example of this is the Bali Art Festival - held annually from mid-June through mid-July. If you are plannining to a visit to Bali at about this time (or you live in Singapore or other nearby country) it is well worth the extra effort to be on Bali on the festival's opening day. Never will you have a better opportunity to see Bali's glorious culture and pagentry from all parts of the island on display (and it's much more diverse than one imagines).

That being said, below is a brief overview of some of Bali's more important holidays. On the accompanying tabs are monthly festivals scheduled for the coming year. However before setting out, best to check with your Bali hotel concierge to re-confirm the time and venue (things have a way of changing and times are always flexible). And when attending any ceremony or festival, please keep in mind the tips outlined on the etiquette page.



Balinese Siwaratri on the dark moon of the seventh month based on the Balinese lunar calendar system, Balinese will celebrate the Siwaratri or the Night of Siwa. This holy day is devoted to God Siwa, the destroyer. Balinese believes that on this day, God Siwa, the destroyer meditate for the welfare of the world, and the God Siwa will bestow a pardon for all sin to someone if he accompany the God Siwa in his meditation by observing some self restriction and meditate on the night of Siwaratri.

The celebration of Siwaratri, night of Siwa will light up the night all over Bali. On this night, temples will be full of the congregations. They stay awake all night long, recite prayer or old religious story, chat with friend (for those who takes a lesser self- restriction) and fight the sleepy eyes as hard as possible. The students will celebrate the Siwaratri, night of Siwa in their respective school, they gather in the school temple under the supervision of their teacher, recites prayer, read the holy book, or simply chat with other students.


Bali's most important festival is the Galungan festival. Galungan always falls on a Wednesday. It is a feast and festival which is held throughout the whole island and occurs every 210 days on Budha Kliwon Dungulan. It is believed that during this ten day period all Balinese gods will descend to earth for the festivities. Barongs prance from temple to temple and village to village in celebration of Galungan with the gods.

Galungan to the Balinese is the most important holiday period as it symbolizes the victory of Dharma, or virtue, upon Adharma, or all that is evil. The festivities are made extra special by the fitting of 'penjor' (brightly decorated very tall bamboo poles with woven young coconut leaves, cakes, fruits and flowers) on the right side of the entrance to every house which arch over roads and resemble the arch at the top of a gothic cathedral.


This holiday takes place ten days after Galungan, always falling on a Saturday, bringing the Galungan holiday to a close. Ceremonies are held for ancestral spirits. Be advised that traffic is quite hectic on Kuningan as Balinese families sprint around the island visiting ancestral temples.

Every society should have a Nyepi holiday. This holiday is the Balinese New Year called Içaka (New Year). It is a day of total silence throughout the island. No activity is whatsoever is allowed, absoutely no traffic (motor or pedestrian) is allowed on the roads, no fire may be lit, use of electricity is banned (except in tourist hotels). Even Ngurah Rai International Airport is closed to all incoming and outgoing flights for 24 hours (6.00am the morning of Nyepi to 6.00am the following day.

Purification and sacrificial rites are held the day before - culminating at night with Ogoh-Ogoh dancing through the villages. The Ogoh-Ogoh are large demon images carried about the villages joined by all the men trying to make as much noise as possible. The idea is to wake up all the evil spirits on Bali then on Nyepi when the spirits return, Bali is absolutely quiet and the spirits, not able to find anyone, leave the island for good.

Tumpek Krulut is dedicated for all musical instruments, masks, and other tools that are used in art performances for the numerous religious ceremonies in Bali. The Tumpek Krulut takes its name from the name of week of its occasion. It is celebrated every 210 days, in the 17th week of Balinese Pawukon cycle (a cycle consists of 30 weeks). On this special day, offerings are given to pay homage to the musical instruments, masks, and dance costumes. The instruments and other paraphernalia are cleaned, decorated with young coconut leaf offerings, given a special offering and sprinkled with holy water. The members of the group that uses the instruments, costumes and masks, pray together and ask a blessing from the gods.

This day devoted to Sanghyang Aji Saraswati, the goddess symbolizing knowledge and art. In every family compound a blessing ceremony is given to holy scriptures, and literature for all sciences and arts.

The Balinese Hindus will celebrate a very special day devoted to Hyang Pramesti Guru and Hyang Pitara (ancestors), which is meant to ask for protection and prosperity. It is celebrated at every family temple and holy place throughout Bali. Pagerwesi has a close relationship to Saraswati. Pagarwesi always falls four days after Saraswati and there is continuous meaning in between the two festivals. After people have received knowledge on Saraswati they must remember that the knowledge has been transferred through a guru or teacher and Pagerwesi is the day to show respect to teachers and the main guru (Siva).

Tumpek Landep is the day devoted to Sang Hyang Pasupati, the lord of all metal implements. A blessing ceremony is given to heirloom weapons and other metal tools (including cars and other vehicles) for magical power and proper function. This ceremony is held at every family compound as well as (and especially at) smiths and garages.

The historical roots of Tumpek Landep trace back to rites for the blessing and sharpening of weapons of conflict. Over years the meaning has been expanded to include any tool or instrument made of metal - eventually including bicycles, motorcycles and cars. Tumpek Landep is in fact a day set aside for sharpening all the "weapons of our lives." Tumpek Landep is a day for evaluation and retrospection on how well we have mastered that knowledge for the benefit of the world. Accordingly, Tumpek Landep seeks to honor human skills and ingenuity and the tools and technology used in practicing those skills.


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