Balinese Ceremony and Ritual by BaliSpirit.com
The Balinese Celebrate Life through Ceremony & Daily Rituals
It is said there is never a day in Bali without a ceremony of some kind and if
you include all the life cycle rites (baby ceremonies, puberty rites, weddings,
cremations,Temple festivals), then this adage is probably true. There are
definitely certain times that are “ceremony-heavy” such as the full
moons in April and October and the high holy days of Galungan (see below for more info). Balinese religion (called Agama Hindu Dharma)
consist of three primary elements: Hinduism based on what is practiced in India
but differing substantially from those traditions, animism (where every living
thing has a soul) and ancestor worship (the Balinese deify their ancestors
after a proscribed process of cleansing has been done).
Temple festivals are held on the anniversary of when the temple in question was
consecrated. This could be an annual event, held on a new or full moon or more
likely every 210 days, based on the wuku system, a complex calculation
of overlapping days of confluence, some being more “powerful” than
others (think of Friday the 13th).
An Odalan or temple ceremony usually lasts for three
days, but larger ones (which occur every 5, 10, 30 or 100 years) can last for
11 days or longer. The gist of what is happening here is that the Balinese are
honoring the deities that rule over the temple by giving them a myriad of
offerings, performances of vocal music, dance and gamelan music. They
invite them down from their abode on Mount Agung to partake in the activities.
The temple is dressed up in colorful golden clothes,
the images of the deities are taken to the local holy spring to be bathed and
dressed in their best, shrines are cleaned, performances are rehearsed,
committees are formed and then the big day arrives. Usually people take their
offerings to the temple in the late afternoon, after the heat of the day has
gone, and everyone's work and school obligations are over.
The offerings, consisting of fruits, rice cakes and
flowers, are brought in on women's heads and placed at strategic points around
the temple. These are blessed with holy water by the temple Pemangku or
priest. The pilgrims then pray, are blessed with and drink holy water and then
take the offerings home to share with their families. The gods have taken the sari or essence of the offerings, leaving the “leftovers” for
the humans to consume. In the evenings, there could be spectacular performances
of music and dance by local groups.
Since every village has at least three
major temples (and often many more than that), there is always some kind of
community religious activity going on. Aside from the village temple festivals,
every household compound's family temple (mrajan/sanggah) also has its
ceremony every 210 days.
Aside from the Odalan, there are a dozen or so life
and death cycle rites that are performed throughout a child's life:
Gedong-gedongan : this is done in the 8th month
(Gregorian calendar/7th month Balinese calendar) of pregnancy to ask blessings
for an easy birth. The pregnant woman and her husband wade into the river,
where eels and small fish are placed face down on her protruding belly to show
the baby the right way out!
Birth: Only the husband and the midwife/doctor are
allowed to hold the placenta or after birth. This is washed and then buried on
the right (if the baby is a boy) side of the northern pavilion or left (if a
girl). With it are buried a comb, a dance fan, a pen, a book—whatever the
family wishes the child will grow up to enjoy.The parents are not allowed to go
into the kitchen for three days.
Three Days after birth: the parents undergo a simple
cleansing ritual so they can go into the kitchen
Rorasin: 12 days after the birth the umbilical cord
has usually fallen off. This is placed in a special shrine dedicated to Kumara,
the Guardian of Babies.
42-day ceremony: Once a baby has reached this age, a
rather large ritual is performed for her/him. This is to ensure that her/his
development will continue unhindered. One of the things done at this time is
that a baby chick and baby duck are brought in to peck off/dust off cooked rice
that is on the baby's third eye. This is to show the child how to use her hands
and feet as well as her mouth to gather food, as the animals do. She is placed
under a cockfighting basket where she grabs items that have previously been
placed into a clay pot. It is said that whatever she grabs is her vocation.
Three month ceremony: This is also quite a grand
ceremony that all the relatives and neighbors are invited to. This marks the
first time a child touches the ground for the first time (he is carried
everywhere previously). In some villages, this is when the child is
“replaced” by a dressed up eggplant or cucumber. The priest sings
the praises of the the eggplant so that spirits of chaos that might be lurking
around will follow the eggplant when it's thrown out the front door, while the
real baby stays protected.
Odalan or six months (210 days) ceremony. This is the
baby's birthday and will be celebrated ritually every 6 months. But no birthday
Three odalans is traditionally when the child has her
or his hair cut off and head shaved to represent purity.
Menek kelih or puberty. Not all castes perform this
ceremony. It happens when the girl gets her period and the boy's voice cracks.
They are paraded around the village announcing to all that they are now adults
(and in the olden days, ready to marry)
Tooth filing: In their late teens, Balinese get the
top middle teeth filed; this symbolizes the filing away of greed, anger, lust,
drunkenness, envy and confusion.
Wedding: the ultimate fusion of male and female
Death: within death, there are a number of rites. The
first is the ritual cleansing of the corpse by the family and the banjar (neighborhood), then comes the burial or the cremation (if the family can
afford to cremate right away, they will choose that option) and then the
post-crematory purification rites where the soul becomes a deity that shall be
worshipped in the family temple.
Aside from these major rituals, there are also honor days which occur every 35
days and are made for
Anything out of metal: daggers, knives, gamelan instruments and now cars and
Any fruiting trees
Any domesticated animals, such as pigs, cows, chickens, goats.
Shadow puppets and dance paraphenelia
Literature (Goddess Saraswati)
Kuningan : the end of the l0 day cycle of Galungan
Then we have Nyepi, the day of Silence, when one is not allowed to cook, light
fires, go outside the home, drive, have sex or make a lot of noise. It occurs
in March or April and one can palpably feel the energy in the air diminish for
Galungan is the day when the victory of Dharma or Justice/Truth wins over
Adharma. It is when the family ancestors descend into the family temples, led
there by seeing the long curved bamboo pole (penjor) that are erected in front
of every Balinese house. For ten days, the ancestors are feted in the family
temples; many temple festivals occur at this time of year and there is great
feasting. On the last day, Kuningan, the ancestors are seen off with a flurry
of yellow offerings and yellow rice.
There are also days to honor Dewi Sri, the goddess of rice, within the
rice-growing cycle and other agricultural products.
Yes, nearly every day is a day to celebrate something in Bali! The above essay
was written by Rucina Ballinger, founder of Dyana Putri Adventures.
Hari Raya Saraswati, the Goddess of learning,
science and literature.
In accordance with Balinese Hindu belief, knowledge is an essential medium to
achieve the goal of life as a human being. This day celebrates Saraswati in
Bali, a special day devoted to the Goddess of learning, science and literature.
Saraswati rules the intellectual and creative realm, and is the patron saint of
libraries and schools. For Balinese Hindus, she is celebrated as she succeeded
in taming the wandering and lustful mind of her consort, Brahma, who was
preoccupied with the goddess of material existence, Shatarupa. On this day no
one is allowed to read or write, and offerings are made to the lontar
(palm-leaf scripts), books and shrines.
Saraswati Day is celebrated every 210-days on Saniscara Umanis Wuku Watugunung
and marks the start of the new year according to the Balinese Pawukon calendar.
Ceremonies and prayers are held at the temples in family compounds, villages
and businesses from morning to noon. Prayers are also held in school temples.
Teachers and students abandon their uniforms for the day in place of bright and
colourful ceremony gear, filling the island with colour! Children bring fruit
and traditional cakes to school for offerings at the temple.
Hari Raya Nyepi, the Silence Day
The month of March brings us Nyepi - Bali's official day of silence (24hrs). Nyepi marks the first day of the Balinese Saka calendar (1929) and is practiced island-wide where the Balinese dedicate an entire day to introspection and spiritual cleansing, embarking on a new year based on the Balinese lunar calendar.
Nyepi is my favorite day of the year. The night before the silence begins, there is an island wide parade of paper mache monsters (Ogoh-Ogoh) sent about making a rukus to scare evil spirits off the island, back to where ever they came from. Starting from approximately 6 a.m. on Friday, March 23 and continuing until 6 a.m. the next morning, EVERYONE will stay in their family compounds (or hotels) and silence will overcome the island. There are no cars, no tv's or loud radios, no lamps or fires and no airplanes overhead as the airport is closed. This is the only place in the world where the government will shut down an airport for meditation & introspection!
Waisak, is an annual holy day honoring:
The Birth of Prince Siddharta (also known as the Buddha) in taman Lumbini in
Prince Siddharta achieving nirvana or enlgihtenment and becoming the Buddha in
Buddha Gaya at the age of 35 in 588 BCE.
Buddha Gautama's death in 543 BCE at the age of 80.
Waisak is celebrated in Bali mainly at the very few Buddhist ashrams on the
island. There is a huge celebration at Borobudur Buddhist temple outside of
Jogyakarta when thousands of Buddhist pilgrims come to pay their respects.