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5 of The Most Special Religious Festivals in Bali

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The more time I spend in Bali and learn more about the beautiful, rich religious heritage and beliefs of the wonderful Balinese people the more I appreciate this Island of Gods as my future home. The main religion in Bali is Hindu, steeped in tradition that is passed on within families and communities, as a visitor the key for me is always respect. I have been honoured to have spent time with a wonderful Hindu Priest near Tirta Ganga courtesy of one of closest friends and mentors, to one of my oldest friends bringing me for a purification ceremony at a Holy Water temple. Special memoires and I still wear the Tridatu Bracelet given to me since that day. I am a guest here and I would be horrified to ever offend any of my friends or indeed anybody practising their beliefs. To that end I try to learn more each time I visit, from getting involved in the morning offering where I stay to making sure I don’t step on the offering outside somebody’s house or shop. 

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  1. Nyepi – The Day of Silence and Balinese New Year. I have been blessed to be in Bali for the last 2 years for this special occasion. Although it’s been different because of Covid none the less it’s a beautiful time for family and reflection. It’s usually a 6-day festival, starting with the Melasti Pilgrimage. Pilgrims from all over the island will walk long distances towards the coast carrying heirlooms, parasols, and religious effects in procession. Its colourful, its joyous and can be loud. It’s usually followed by a purification ceremony. On the eve of the 2nd day comes the amazing Ogoh Ogoh parade. Large scary effigies of Monsters are paraded and shaken down streets, its loud and very colourful. The effigies are burnt at the end of the parade to get rid of evil spirits and cleanse the island in readiness for the new year. This has not been allowed for the last 2 years because of covid. On the day of Nyepi, the airport is closed and you must remain at home from sunrise to sundown the following day. It’s a day of reflection and introspection. No loud music, no cars or motorbikes, no lights, or fires. The local Pecalang are deployed to make sure all people including tourists adhere to this. Its literally one day out of 365, where you get to switch off. Read a book, meditate, be grateful for where you are in the world. At nigh time, just spend time looking up at the stars, perfect opportunity to watch a dark sky in peace.  After Nyepi day life start to return to normal. Day 5 and 6 are usually made up of Ngembak Geni which involves seeking forgiveness from one another and then Dharma Shanti Rituals on day 6. Nyepi 2022 will fall on March 3rd (1944 in Balinese Calendar).
  2. Galungan: The day Balinese celebrate victory of good over evil (victory of Dharma over Adharma). It is celebrated every 210 days according to the Hindu Calendar, it marks the time when the Ancestral Spirits of deceased relatives visit the Earth. The climax is Balinese families attending temple prayers in their finest traditional clothes bringing offering to enjoy and share after prayers.  The celebrations are very colourful with bamboo poles with offerings suspended high on streets and roads called Penjor. You can’t miss them!
  3. Kuningan: This festival marks the end of Galungan, (usually on day 10) when the Ancestral Spirits leave the Earth.  It is also believed the supreme God Sang Hyang Widi descends to earth to give blessings to all people. 
  4. Pagerwesi Day – Day of Wisdom.  Usually, 4 days after Saraswati Day. A day when Balinese strengthen their minds and souls against evil forces. It is celebrated every 6 months and celebrated in very similar fashion to Galungan as it’s a very important occasion. The Balinese focus on strong personal protection of the mind to prevent evil from entering their minds, deeds and speech. A lesson we could all learn from.
  5. Saraswati Day: The knowledge Day.  The Goddess of knowledge, Saraswati is symbolized by a beautiful woman with 4 hands among Lotus flowers on a white swan. The Lotus flower is the holiest of flowers for Balinese people. Books and especially religious books are brought to the temple to be blessed the day before. The philosophy behind the day is that knowledge is one of the most important factors of human life. 
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As I prepare to make Bali my permanent home in January 2022, I am honoured to have such wonderful friends across the Island to guide and support me. The town of Amed in beautiful East Bali will be the special place where I settle. I look forward to becoming part of the community and hopefully contributing as much as I can to local community. I will be posting more blogs nearer the time as I document the moving and settling process. 

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Learn more about Bali at: http://divenowworklater.com



About Author

Business Recovery Specialist turned scuba nut. Been visiting Bali since 2006. Visited Gili Trawangan in 2014 to do my open water course(SSI) with Manta Dive Gili Trawangan. After getting stuck on Bali at the start of the lockdown in April 2020, two things happened, firstly my local Balinese friends rallied round to make sure I was safe, fed and watered, and secondly when I got back to the UK I had left my heart behind me in Bali. Cliche I know, but after all the years of visiting Bali it just got progressively worse each time. Over the course of the summer of 2020I came up with the Dive Now Work Later concept. The purpose(still in development) is to help novice divers and people that want to learn to dive come to Bali , informed with everything in place having made informed choices about who to dive with, where to stay and how to get there from the airport.Stress and Hassle free. Living and working in Bali now since 2021.

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