When it comes to The Island of Gods, people tend to immediately think about Bali sightseeing, beautiful beaches, great surfing, or big parties. But the truth is religious ceremonies and festivals are very important in Bali. Here, every day is a day of celebration and ceremony.
So, if you go on a Bali tour, you will most likely be able to witness ceremonies and festivals. Which are amazing!
Here is a quick list of the most popular and impressive ceremonies and festivals in that you must attend if you are sightseeing in Bali!
Every 210 days, which represent a year according to Pawukon calendar, all the different villages and cities gather and celebrate to commemorate the foundation of their temple (Odolan). For this occasion, Balinese people pray to the gods and make offerings in the form of refreshments and entertainment.
There are more than 20,000 temples in Bali so if you are sightseeing in Bali, you will have plenty of occasions to witness Odolan. It usually occurs during a full moon.
Galungan and Kuningan
Also celebrated every 210 days, Galungan is the celebration of the creation of the universe. It is one of the most important Balinese festivals. It lasts for 3 days.
Balinese people believe that on Galungan, the divinities and the souls of ancestors descend to the temples to take up residence, where they are worshiped by their descendants for five days. If you are exploring Bali by motorbike during Galungan, you will see that the streets are lined with Penjor, tall bamboo poles decorated with palm-leaf ornaments and fruits.
Ten days after the beginning of Galungan, the festivities start again with Kuningan that only last a day.
- In 2017, Galungan falls on the 5th of April and the 1st of November
- In 2017, Kuningan falls on the 15th of April and the 11th of November
Saraswati is a day dedicated to the Hindu knowledge goddess Saraswati. Like many other Balinese ceremonies, Saraswati is celebrated every 210 days. Balinese people make offerings and pray at home, in temples, or at school. They also decorate their books with sacred ornaments and offerings.
- In 2017, Saraswati falls on the 21st of January and the 19th of August
This day is dedicated to spiritual reinforcement, also called “Iron Portal”. Prayers and offerings are sent to save humanity. Balinese people make offerings to keep away the evil spirits and pray for the dead.
- In 2017, Pagerwesi falls on the 25th of January and the 23rd of August
Every 35 days, Balinese people honor physical things that make their life easier, like metallic objects (Tumpek Landep) such as motorbikes or cars. They also honor animals (Tumpek Kandang), shadows (Tupek Wayang), trees (Tumpek Uduh), musical instruments, masks, and other objects used in ceremonies (Tumpek Krulut).
- In 2017, Tumpek Landep falls on the 4th of February and the 2nd of September
- In 2017, Tumpek Kandang falls on the 24th of June
- In 2017, Tumpek Wayang falls on the 29th of July
- In 2017, Tumpek Uduh falls on the 11th of Mars and the 7th of October
- In 2017, Tumpek Krulut falls on the 20th of May and the 16 of December
Nyepi, also known as Silent Day is the Balinese New Year’s Day. On that day, life stops for 24 hours. Shops are closed, people must stay home in silence and must not use fire or electricity. Even the airport is closed! To make sure everyone respects the religious rules, the Pecalang community and police patrol the streets. Nyepi is a day to meditate and find your inner peace.
A few days before Nyepi, Balinese people celebrate Melasti. They all converge to the ocean to purify themselves. Every village makes a pilgrimage to the coast, taking sacred temple objects for blessings. Everyone is dressed in white.
On New Year’s Eve, the day before Nyepi, you must go watch the Ogoh-Ogoh parade. Ogoh-Ogoh are giant papier-mâché demon effigies that Balinese people carry around the streets. Every villages and neighborhoods make their own Ogoh-Ogoh for the occasion.
- In 2017, Nyepi fell on the 28 of March. This was to celebrate the beginning of Saka year 1939.
For Balinese people, cremation is the most important rite in the cycle of life. Cremation rituals are seen as joyous occasions to release the soul from the body of the departed. During the ceremony, the body is placed in a coffin which is then placed inside a sarcophagus resembling a buffalo (Lembu) or in a temple structure (Wadah) made of papier-maché and wood. This is followed by a procession to bring the body to the cremation site. The procession is purposely not carried in a straight line because Balinese people believe this will confuse the evil spirit and keep them away from the deceased. The burning of the sarcophagus containing the body marks the climax of the Ngaben ceremony.
Ngaben ceremony is elaborate and fairly expensive, therefore, it is not always performed immediately. For the higher social class, Ngaben is typically carried individually within 3 days, whereas the lower social class typically wait to perform a mass ceremony with the village’s other dead.