There are festivals and ceremonies all year round in Bali but there are only a few that you need to take careful note of as you don’t want to miss experiencing these. You also need to understand what is acceptable from a tourist during these ceremonies in order to allow freedom of tourists joining in future. Show respect, take photos where allowed and soak up the magic of these Bali religious ceremonies.
It doesn’t matter what religion you are or if you don’t follow any spiritual path… these events have life lessons in them that we all can learn from.
2014 Galungan Dates- 21 May & 17 December
Gulungan is a bi-annual ceremony (held every 6 months) that is probably the most important in the Balinese calendar. The Galungan Ceremony represents the victory of dharma over adharma, or simply put, good over evil. It celebrates the the two weeks every year when all the good spirits come down to Bali, and the Balinese people will welcome them with prayers and offerings, and ceremonies to cleanse, and bring abundance.
The festivities last for 10 days and include temple members dancing through the streets and the raising of ‘penjor’ a large bamboo pole that is situated directly outside the front of each and every household across Bali. The poles are intricately and beautifully decorated with palm leaves, bits of clothe and fruit offerings and turn the streets of Bali into a sight to behold!
2104 Kuningan Dates- 31 May & 27 December
This ceremony is held the day after the 10 day Galungan ceremony and is signified by a day of prayer, yellow rice, special foods and even more astounding decorations of house and temple. Kuningan is said to represent the day when the deities ascend back into the heavens.
2014 Nyepi Date: 31 March
Unlike the Western world that celebrates the new year with a day of parties and revelry, the Balinese introduce their own new year in a day of silence. Nyepi, as it is known, occurs the day after the new moon of the southern hemisphere spring equinox, and is a day of silence, fasting and meditation. The entire island literally shuts down, including all shops, banks and even the airport.
No fires are allowed to be lit, no pleasure or entertainment to be participated in and for some even no eating or talking. The streets are eerily silent as no one is allowed outside their house, including tourists. It is incredibly important that you respect and observe this tradition! The Balinese believe that on this day evil spirits are flying over Bali looking to create mischief and mayhem, and therefore the Balinese stay indoors to trick the evil spirits into believing that the island is deserted.
However, witnessing the day before Nyepi is an incredible not to be missed experience. Known as the Bhuta Rajna Ritual, not too dissimilar to Halloween, and apart from trying to make as much noise as possible, the Balinese also create big statues of demons known as Ogoh-Ogoh, and parade them through the streets in an attempt to neutralise the negative impact they will have the following day. The Ogoh-Ogoh are truly a sight to behold as they are paraded around the streets and finally they are burnt, moments before Nyepi begins to be observed.
(click here for a full description of Nyepi from Wayan)
Some important points to remember for Nyepi
- Make sure you know which day it falls on if you are travelling to Bali sometime in March or April Make as much noise as possible and join in on the street party as the Ogoh-Ogoh are paraded the day prior to Nyephi Make sure to be back in your hotel before 6am, fully stocked with food and water as you won’t be able to leave to buy more should you run out
- Use Nyepi as a day to relax, sleep, read a good book etc.
- Do not light any fires to cook, or turn on lights at night
- 6am the next morning you can resume your holiday in paradise knowing that you have participated in one of the worlds truly unique cultural ceremonies