The New Moon plays an important role on the island of Bali, where several Hindu holidays are timed to this auspicious day when the moon turns black.
Yearly Festivals in Bali that fall on New Moon
One of the most prominent festivals happening only once a year, which falls on the 12th New Moon of the Balinese Saka calendar is Nyepi, Bali's 'Silent Day' Celebration for Isakawarsa, Bali's New Year. It marks a day of fasting, silence, meditation and self-reflection before the second New Year's day is celebrated together with family and friends. The Nyepi date changes every year regarding our Roman calendar, since Nyepi is calculated with the 210-day-Balinese/Javanese calendar, which depends on the cycles of the moon. This year the ritual fell on the 17th of March 2018.
Another auspicious Hindu Festival on a New Moon is Siwa Ratri, which takes place on the 7th month of the Balinese calendar. It is a holy night of introspection and celebration of Lord Shiva from Hindu Mythology, which includes several rituals and ceremonies. Siwaratri usually starts with a morning prayer and ritual at 6am and then continues for the whole day and night until the next morning. The following traditions are observed for the festival: not talking for 12 hours, not eating for 24 hours, not sleeping for 36 hours. During the night there are several rituals performed and the devotee is asked to stay awake and meditate during the whole night due to intensified energies that help to expand consciousness and release karma. The festival celebrates the union between Shiva and Shakti, the masculine and feminine energies within, as well as a balanced material life with a balanced spiritual life. It is one of the most auspicious Hindu celebrations of the year.
The third important festival that affects around 15% of the population on Bali and well over 80% on the Gili islands and Lombok, plus the rest of Indonesia, is Ramadan, the Muslim's yearly festival of fasting. This year's Ramadan started on the 15th of May and ended on the 17th of June. In Ramadan, Muslim's make a vow to abstain from sex, alcohol and drugs as well as from eating and drinking between sunrise and sunset for a whole month, to go within, overcome materialism and strengthen their connection with Allah. Ramadan starts just after New Moon, when a tiny little crescent is visible and ends after 29 days with Eid-Al-Fitr, breaking the fast, after the New Moon of the following month. It's a time cherished with celebration and togetherness, since families and friends come together every night to break the daily fast with small meals and drinks.
Regular New Moon Celebrations in Bali
However, as Bali is a highly spiritual place infused with daily rituals, offerings and celebrations, the people on the island do not only celebrate New Moon on special festivals as mentioned above, but actually every month. On Tilem Sasih Jiyestha, referring to the darkness of the New Moon, women prepare special offerings for the temple on their compound, for the entrance to the house which are placed on the street, and for the local village temple. Many temples hold blessing ceremonies with the local priest for the villagers, who then bring their offerings to the temple.
On New Moon days, people pray to Surya the Sun God to ask him to illuminate their negative thoughts and remind them of the light within. It's a reminder that life has it's ups and downs and that moments of darkness are followed by the light, but that both states are fleeting in nature, and we can't hold on to neither. It also stands symbolically for our dark sides, negative thoughts or shadows which we can't see and that we need to observe ourselves, to truly see and accept all these parts within us. For the Balinese, everything is in constant motion, just as the cycles of the Moon.
On New Moon days, men dress in a sarong in brown or black colors with a sash around the waist, a plain (mostly white) t-shirt and a traditional head-dress called udeng. Women wear a sarong, a white blouse with beautiful embroidery, a sash around the waist and often flowers in the hair, which hold together at the back of the head. It's the women of Bali, who create these artistic handmade offerings of fruit, palm leaves, rice, sweets and incense and it's also them who bring them to the temple, often as big towers transported on their heads.
Some village temple organize local entertainment activities on New Moon, such as dance, Wayang Puppet Performances or Arja Plays. If one of the New Moon days additionally falls on Kajeng Kliwong, a recurring ceremony which is used for cleansing of the mind and the environment of the house, to purify the energy and release negativity, the day is seen as extra potent. If Kajeng Kliwong falls on New Moon, the performance Calonarang is organized, in which dancers depict the struggle between Barong, the leader of the good spirits of the island, and Rangda, the evil witch queen.
The battle between both represents the eternal battle between good and evil, dark and light, positivity and negativity, which the Balinese as per their Hindu religion embrace both, because balance is achieved by transcending dark and light.
Things to keep in mind to celebrate New Moon in Bali
Balinese are highly religious and adhere to a certain set of rules on special days such as New Moon. If you'd like to visit a local temple on this occasion, dress yourself according to the local tradition, such as:
- long sarong, sash and white shirt plus udeng on the head for a men, and
- long sarong, white blouse covering the shoulders and sash for the women
- never sit higher than the priest
- be humble and wait and observe what is done in the temple so that you can be advised where to go and what to do at the appropriate time
Some temples hand out sarongs for the occasion, but best is you check beforehand how you dress yourself.
May you enjoy this New Moon in Bali!
Written by Anne Haack, a intuitive coach and psychic healer, Reiki Master, yoga and meditation teacher, movement facilitator and DJ.