The Balinese life follows the rhythm of numerous celebrations and events of different kind. Some of them take place everywhere in Bali like Nyepi. But some are more local, like Nyepi Laut on the Nusa Penida islands.
The people of Nusa Penida will be happy to invite you, if you want to join. It is indeed the perfect opportunity to better understand the balinese culture. So, if you can, choose your traveling dates taking into account one or more celebrations. You won’t be disappointed ! And there is no risk of finding yourself tied up like these cartoon heroes created by cartoonist Bob de Moor for the Tintin Journal in 1950!
Here is a small summary of the Balinese festivals inspired form the websites balilocalguide.
The two calendars
The ceremonies, celebrations and events follow two different calendars used by the Balinese:
- The Pawukon calendar, whose year consists of only 210 days
- The Saka calendar, which comes from the Indian system. Each month begins with the new moon, occasion for great ceremonies.
The main Balinese celebrations
Odalan celebrates the coming of the gods on each anniversary of the foundation of the temple. It takes place every 210 days since the foundation of the temple (once per year of the Pawukon then). Thus, the date is different for each temple. Some Odalan ceremonies last only 1 to 3 days, while others can last up to a month. Once the main religious ceremony is over, Odalan becomes more of a social occasion to meet its neighbors.
Galungan et Kuningan celebrations
Galungan celebrates the creation of the universe, the victory of the good, Dharma, against the evil, Adharma. The celebrations always take place on a Wednesday. The celebrations preparations start on the previous Monday, with the preparation of the cakes that will serve as offerings. On the Tuesday, men prepare the festive dinner (they kill pigs, to turn them into kebabs and blood sausages) and women prepare the offerings.
These festivities last 10 days and come to an end with Kuningan, which celebrates purification. On that same day, the ancestors’ souls are leaving their family’s temple.
Upcoming Galungan/Kuningan dates in Bali are :
- July 24th 2019 / August 3rd 2019
- February 19th 2020 /February 29th 2020
- September 16th 2020 /September 26th 2020
Saraswati celebrates the goddess of knowledge. The children, who pray and bring offerings to the temple of their school, mainly celebrate it. The Balinese also pay homage to the goddess and books by sprinkling holy water.
Upcoming Saraswati dates in Bali are :
- May 11th, 2019
- December 7th, 2019
- July 4th, 2020
Pagerwesi is a festival dedicated to the spiritual strengthening and development of individuals’ forces against evil. Pager means : bareer and Wesi : metal. Therefore it means that everyone must surround themselves with strong fortifications against the forces of evil. All Balinese place offerings at their family temple and at other temples in order to be protected from any negative element.
Upcoming Pagerwesi dates in Bali are :
- May 15th, 2019
- December 11th, 2019
- July 8th, 2020
Every 35 days, the Balinese make offerings to items or valuable property :
- Music instruments, masks and outfits used during ceremonies (Tumpek Krulut) : February 9th and September 7th 2019.
- Pets and especially cattle (Tumpek Kandang) : March 16th and October 12th 2019.
- Puppets (Tupek Wayang) : April 20th and November 16th 2019
- Iron objects such as cars, motorbikes, televisions, knives… (Tumpek Landep) : May 25th and December 21st 2019
- And trees (Tumpek Uduh) : June 29th 2019
Nyepi is the Balinese New Year (of the Saka calendar). It takes place in March or April according on the Balinese calendar.
It corresponds to a day of silence, meditation, to refocus and liberate the minds from negative emotions. This silence is supposed to convince demons that the island is deserted, so that they will not come back to disturb its inhabitants.
During that day, it is strictly forbidden to anyone (Balinese and tourists) to go out on the streets, to set a fire or to turn the lights on, to work and even to entertain themselves for 24 hours starting from 6am. Even the airport is closed for the day (except for medical emergencies). No light or sound pollution, which means ideal conditions to meditate and watch the stars!
Nyepi, is preceded by Melasti, which is celebrated throughout the whole island of Bali. It corresponds to the great purification. On this occasion, the Balinese go to the see or to a natural water source to purify their bodies and their sacred objects. The day before Nyepi, the main road junctions receive large offerings supposed to exorcise evil spirits.
The Ogoh Ogoh procession
At night, great processions march through the streets carrying ogoh ogoh (paper-mache monsters, demons’ folk statues) representing the past year’s demons. Cymbals and firecrackers accompany the procession to frighten off evil spirits. And the participants burn the statues at the end of the ceremony.
Nyepi in Nusa Penida
Because the silence day of Nyepi took its origins in Nusa Penida, the inhabitants follow strictly the tradition and the electricity will be switch off from 6 am on March 7th till 6 am on March 8th. To know more you can read about the history of Nyepi.
For the tourists it means : everything will be closed (shops, transport, restaurants, etc.). There will be no electricity and no internet. No fires are allowed. You are not allowed to go out on the streets. So the best is to take some time to enjoy the stars during night (no light pollution) and the serenity, and to meditate. But also to be prepared by stocking up on water and food the day before Nyepi.
Upcoming Nyepi dates in Bali are :
- In 2019 : March 7th (year 1941 of Saka calendar)
- In 2020 : March 23rd
- on March 14th, 2021
- on March 3rd, 2022
Nyepi Laut in Nusa Penida
Nyepi Laut is the maritime version of the Nyepi silence day, practiced mainly on the 3 islands of Nusa Penida. That day there is no maritime activity on Nusa Penida, Nusa Lembogan and Nusa Ceningan. It means no boat to join or leave the islands, no boat between the islands, no scuba diving, no snorkeling.
The goal of this day is to honor and appease Dewa Baruna, the ruler of the seas and oceans. This ritual practice started in the 17th century, under the reign of Dalem Waturenggong in the Klungkung regency of Klunkung. The ritual practice of this day includes meditation and silent contemplation on the importance of the aquatic environment. It is better that day to wear a sarong to cover one’s legs and a modest shirt or blouse to cover one’s shoulders).
Upcoming Nyepi Laut date in Nusa Penida in 2019 is :
- around end of September / beginning of October
Independence day of Indonesia
On August 17, Indonesians celebrate independence by holding flag ceremonies at school and at the office. If you are in Bali, try to attend to some of the afternoon games oraganized in many villages and cities ! But wherever you are in Bali, you will see the Indonesian flag everywhere!
Independence day :
- August 17th