Bali Festivals & Events Guide
Calendar of Bali Events
Festivals and events are important features in the social landscape of Bali, and also permanent fixtures in the lives of the Balinese. These festivals and events are determined by the calendars of the Balinese from long ago.
The major events in the life of a Balinese is believed to occur on fixed dates, which go according to the Balinese Calendar. Unlike temple festivals, these major events take place nearly every six months or every 210 days!
The Balinese believe in annual cycles and every six months of a Balinese's life is a celebration of holidays and life-cycle ceremonies. Since his conception in his mother's womb, every Balinese passes through certain stages, and this carries on up until marriage. These are the events celebrated to mark the passage of a Balinese as he progresses in his life. But the ritual of utmost importance to the Balineses is the ritual of the funeral rites and cremation.
It is, therefore, extremely obvious that festivals and events are an integral part of Balinese life and a huge part of the mysticism and allure that sets Bali apart from any other land. To help preserve and maintain every aspect of this rich culture, the Provincial Government of Bali holds numerous Annual Festivals.
The Balinese use altogether three types of calendars for one year; one is the typical Western calendar, and the other two are local Balinese calendars, the saka and the wuku calendars.
The wuku calendar is used to find out dates for festivals and has 10 different weeks, each from one to 10 days and all running simultaneously.
The saka calendar is a lunar calendar of Hindu origin, which closely follows the Western calendar in terms of the length of the year. With illustrations for each day indicating what activities that day is auspicious for, Balinese calendars make popular souvenirs.
Some of Bali's major temples celebrate their festivals according to the dictates of the saka calendar. Hence, the actual date of a festival is difficult to determine from the Western calendar since the lunar saka does not have a predetermined number of days.
The wuku calendar, however, does have a set number of days. According to the saka, full moons days from the end of September till the start of October, or from early to mid-April are normally important festive dates, and temples will celebrate important temple festivals then.
Bali's most important festival is the Galungan festival. It is a feast and festival which is held throughout the whole island and an annual event in the wuku year. It is believed that during this ten day period all Balinese gods, including Sanghyang Widi, the supreme deity, will descend to earth for the festivities. Barongs prance from temple to temple and village to village in celebration of the 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' on the right side of the entrance to every house.
A penjor is a tall bamboo pole terrifically decorated with woven young coconut leaves, cakes, fruits and flowers; and also a must for every Balinese household. The Galungan also sees the Balinese decked in their finest clothes and jewels for the day.
The last day of the 10-day festival is the most important day. Known as Kuningan, it is the climax of the ten-day Galungan, and also serves to bringing the holiday period to a close. Kuningan is a day for prayer, and a special ritual ceremony is held for the spirits of the Balinese's ancestors.
Just as the Galugan ends with a day of symbolic prayer, its beginning is marked by Pagerwesi. Pagerwesi literally means 'iron fence', and on Pagerwesi day every year, ceremonies and prayers are held in supplication for iron-strong mental and spiritual defense in welcoming the Galungan holiday.
The saka calendar has a major festival called Nyepi, or the final day of the saka year. It falls on the day after the new moon on the ninth month. Nyepi is a celebrated holiday and the Balinese New Year called icaka New Year. It is a day of total silence throughout the island. Nyepi really is a celebration observed with total silence!
On Nyepi day, there is totally no activity - no traffic at all on the roads, no amusement is held the whole day long. No fires also may be lit in observance of the Nyepi and great purification and sacrificial rites are held on the day prior to Nyepi in order to exorcise evil spirits from every corner of Bali.
Bali and the Balinese also celebrate Saraswati, a day devoted to God's manifestation as the wise and beautiful Goddess of Knowledge, Art and Literature - the Dewi Saraswati. To mark this joyous day, books of knowledge, manuscripts and the Wedas are blessed and special offerings are made together with aspirations for knowledge and wisdom.
Highly notable is the Annual Arts Festival, which interestingly takes place from every second Saturday of June to the second Saturday of July. This Annual Arts Festival is a celebration of exhibitions and performances of various kinds of artworks and cultural achievements, including the absorbing Kite Festival.