The Balinese culture uses a Pawukon calendar year that lasts 210 days - instead of our Gregorian year comprised of 365 days - for rituals, holidays, and anniversaries. No matter what time to year, there are colourful gatherings, religious ceremonies, and joyous festivals that the Balinese celebrate. These are only 5 of those many celebrations, but considered by many as the most important.
Nyepi (7 March 2019)
The most significant celebration in Balinese culture, Nyepi represents the Saka New Year. It is a six day celebration, but the third day is Nyepi Day, a day of silence.
Nyepi Eve is when the famous Ogoh Ogoh Parades take place. Men and boys carry massive statues of creatures meant to scare and ward off evil spirits. Musicians follow making a cacophony to further scare evil spirits. Ceremonially, the ogoh ogohs are burned at the end of the night. Night turns to the day of silence. The Balinese believe that after they have scared away evil spirits, their silence ensures that the spirits cannot make their way back to the island.
Nyepi Day is dedicated to self-reflection and the entire island of Bali shuts down; in fact, no flights are allowed in or out, no shops are open, and no electricity is meant to be used. Most visitors during this time will respect the tradition and avoid drinking alcohol on this day all together; if you do choose to drink, it is advised not to take it outside your room or villa.
Galungan (30 May 2018 - 9 June 2018, 26 December - 5 January 2019)
To honour the victory of good over evil, the Balinese celebrate Galungan. Lore says that Indra, the Hindu god of thunder, rain, and lightning, descended from heaven to defeat the Balinese king Mayadenawa and allow his people to practice Hinduism.
In the days leading up to Galungan, there are ceremonial offerings to make, meditations, and preparations for the the actual day of celebration. During Galungan, the Balinese will host a communal feast of pigs, rice cakes, and other traditional food for entire villages to enjoy together, as well as temple ceremonies when offerings of fruits are made to the temple and family shrines. But most notable is the creation, decoration, and celebration of penjor bamboo poles. Adorned with fruit, rice, coconuts or other harvest offerings, these poles are proudly put up in front of houses for the whole village to observe.
Kuningan (9 June 2018, 5 January 2019)
The 10th and final day of Galungan is known as Kuningan Day. As legend has it, ancestors of celebrating Balinese visited Earth to participate in the festivities of Galungan; on the final day, they return to heaven and the Hindu deities bless them.
Final offerings for visiting ancestors are made of yellow rice (or rice coloured with turmeric), seeds, and fruit. These offerings are left in bowls decorated with figures representing angels that bring joy and wealth.
Bali Arts Festival (16 June - 14 July 2018)
For over 40 years, the Bali Arts Festival has been a spectacle for locals and visitors. A showcase of culture and traditional art, music, dance, and more, this festival brings the masses to Denpasar.
Be sure to see traditional shadow puppets, dance collaborations, and traditional bamboo and coconut leaf decorations. And do not skip out on the opportunity to shop. Bazaars are set up to provide traditional Balinese meals and handicrafts.
Full Moon Ceremonies at Pura Besakih (all year)
Bali’s Mother Temple, Pura Besakih Temple, is the epicentre of cultural and ceremonial activity for the Balinese. 70 ceremonies are celebrated here over the 210 day calendar year, including the Full Moon Ceremony. While this celebration occurs at all temples across the island, it is magical at Pura Besakih.
During the day of a full moon, called a Purnama, the Balinese prepare flower decorations, sweet rice cakes, pork dishes, and more to celebrate. Everyone celebrating will go to the temple with offerings, pray, and then return the offerings to home to share with family to eat and enjoy. At Pura Besakih, everyone stays to enjoy the meals and partake in celebrations.
The Temple is actually a complex made up of 80 temples that sits 1,000 metres up on sacred Mount Agung. The main temple here is The Great Temple of State or Pura Penataran Agung.