Festivals and ceremonies occur year-round in Bali, celebrating every aspect of Balinese life and culture. But the biggest and most unforgettable of these happen only a few times a year.
Bali is a great place to be during these festivals, as you won’t want to miss the experience. Here is a bit about each of them, as well as some tips for the tourist who would like to take part in the celebration.
These are the holiest days of the year for the Balinese people, so it’s important to understand the “do’s” and “don’ts” for the days. Show respect, take photos where allowed, and soak up the magic of the religious ceremonies of Bali.
These beautiful ceremonies show how the Balinese people honor life and one another. No matter what religious or spiritual path you follow, it’s an honor to be involved in such loving and joyful celebrations of being.
2016 Galungan Date: 10 February 2016, 7 September 2016
Gulungan is the most important ceremony in the Balinese calendar. The Galungan festival represents the victory of dharma over adharma, or simply put, the conquest of good over evil. It celebrates the two weeks every year when all the good spirits come down to Bali. The Balinese people welcome them with prayers and offerings, and perform ceremonies for cleansing and abundance.
During the ten-day festival, members of the local temple dance through the streets and the sound of the gamelan, the traditional instrument of Bali, rings through the town. Each and every household across Bali raises a ‘penjor,’ a large bamboo pole, in the front of their land. The poles are beautifully decorated with palm leaves, bits of clothe and fruit offerings for the gods. With penjors lining the streets as far as the eye can see, Bali is transformed into a sight to behold!
2016 Kuningan Date: 20 February 2016, 17 September 2016
Kuningan is a day of prayer, filled with blessings and feasts. This ceremony honors the completion of Galungan, representing the day when the deities ascend once again to the heavens. The Balinese adorn their homes and temples with astounding decorations to prepare for the festival. They prepare yellow rice and special foods, giving their thanks to the gods for the abundance they have received during the year.
Get ready to be surrounded by laughter and celebration as the Balinese share their good fortune with all those lucky enough to be with them at this special time.
2016 Nyepi Date: March 9
While the Western world celebrates the new year with a day of parties and revelry, the Balinese ring in the new year with a day of silence. The first day of the Balinese new year, Nyepi, happens the day after the new moon of the spring equinox. It is a day of silence, fasting, and meditation. The entire island literally shuts down, including all shops, banks, and even the airport.
The day before Nyepi is an incredible experience, a must-see for any traveler. This is the day of the Bhuta Rajna Ritual, a celebration similar to Halloween.
The Balinese create huge demon statues known as Ogoh-Ogoh. They parade them through the streets making as much noise as possible, trying to confuse the evil spirits destined to arrive the following day.
The Ogoh-Ogoh are an incredible sight as they travel through the streets. Once they have made a circuit of the town, they are burnt in enormous pyres. The fires and the sound die down only moments before nightfall, when the day of Nyepi begins.
No fires are lit during Nyepi, and the most devout Balinese observe this holy day with silence. Most don’t eat or talk for the entire day. It is a day of reflection when the locals refrain from entertainment or games of pleasure. The streets are eerily silent as both locals and tourists remain inside the home.
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. Everyone in Bali stays indoors to trick the spirits into believing that the island is deserted. But once nightfall comes and the day is officially over, the feasts come out and the talk begins, making it one of the most joyful evenings of the year.
A personal view about the festival watching the festival for the first time – read “Nyepi – a view from a tree” here
For more information on the rituals of the day – click here