Odalan is an important Hindu ritual conducted by the Balinese people to ensure spiritual harmony. In Bali there are over 4,500 temples where ceremonies take place almost every day of the year. Temple festivals are held on the anniversary of when the temple was consecrated and usually on a new or full moon.
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.
Odalan has a great philosophical meaning that reminds us of where we came from and the balance of the universe and its contents to the ceremonies and offerings. Every ceremony in Bali is to maintain the natural balance of positive to negative, so the Balinese do not destroy the negative forces, but balance them in harmony with the positive.
In preparation for Odalan, the temple is decorated in colorful golden cloths and beautiful ornaments. The items normally used for this ceremony are umbrellas, Penjor (a bamboo decorated by young coconut leaf), flags, Umbul – umbul (pennant) and more. 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 work and in the cooler part of the day.
The offerings consist of fruits, rice cakes and flowers and are carried on women's heads and placed at strategic points around the temple. These are blessed with holy water by the temple Pemangku or priest. Afterwards, the people take the offerings home to eat as the gods have taken the sari or essence of the offerings, leaving the rest for humans to consume. In the evenings, there are often spectacular performances of music and dance by local groups in the temple.
Since every village has at least three major temples, there is always some kind of community religious activity going on in Bali. Aside from the village temple festivals, every household compound's family temple also has its ceremony every 210 days.