Night of Siwa
Siwa Ratri, often referred to as the ‘night of Siwa’, is an auspicious time for introspection and meditation, during which the Balinese pray for forgiveness of their earthly sins and for support and strength from the god Siwa (Shiva) in order to reach their higher selves. Part of these rituals involve fasting and staying awake all night, so Siwa Ratri is also known as the longest night. Siwa Ratri is celebrated during the new moon of the 7th month of the Balinese calendar and there are a series of ritual observances throughout the day.
The philosophy of Siwa Ratri can be traced back to a folk story of a lone hunter named Lubdaka. Lubdaka was out hunting and got lost in the wilderness. The sun set and he was in the dark, alone so he climbed a tree to avoid wild animals. He was afraid of falling from the tree if he fell asleep, so he began picking leaves and dropping them into a pond below while chanting prayers to god Shiva. He stayed awake all night and got home safely the next day.
When Lubdaka died, he was greeted by Shiva in the afterlife and his bad deeds were erased because he meditated to Shiva that night. Siwa Ratri (the night of Shiva) is remembered by meditating, staying awake and fasting. The meaning behind these practices is to remind the Balinese to remain vigilant and always keep the gods in mind when navigating through the symbolic darkness of the night.
Siwa Ratri begins with an early morning prayer, typically ending at 6:00am. The ritual typically consists of three fasting activities:
- Upawasa: not eating or drinking for 24 hours
Fasting is a method of self-control and reflection to reach spiritual enlightenment.
- Monabrata: not talking for 12 hours
Silence is a method to learn not to speak impulsively and to choose honest, kind words; not to speak evil or lie; and to learn to listen more attentively.
- Mejagra: not sleeping for 36 hours
Not sleeping is a technique to train being awake and aware of our approach to life which should always be carried out with conduct of insight and wisdom.
The Siwa Ratri celebration also aims to overcome materialism and to build a closer connection with God through surrender and prayer. Each of these (non-)activities are methods to learn to be self-conscious at all times, to have self-control in all circumstances. When completed, each of them is followed by prayers and offerings in the house temple.
Upcoming Siwa Ratri dates in Bali:
Siwa Ratri 2019: January 5
Siwa Ratri 2020: January 23