10 most important ceremonies in Bali!
Updated: Jan 28
Bali, also known as the island of the gods, is an island full of culture and traditions. The Balinese honour every aspect of life through numerous ceremonies and processions. Each ceremony involves preparing offerings for the gods with the utmost care and painstaking detail. The island of Bali comes alive with colour, music and dancing – a definite bucket list item if you are deciding to visit.
Tourists are welcome to all ceremonies, just make sure that you are dressed appropriately for the temple visits.
There is always some ceremony happening in Bali so we have nailed it down to the 10 most important celebrations on the Balinese calendar.
The Ogoh-ogoh parade held during Nyepi
Melasti - Nyepi
Several days prior to Nyepi is Melasti, a purification ceremony, where the world is cleansed of sin and bad karma. Entire communities march to the sea for purification – an amazing sight of parasols, flags and Balinese dressed all in white. Inland there are big celebrations at all the temples.
Nyepi (also known as the “Day of silence”) takes place over a 6-day period but the day of silence falls on the 3rd day of the festival. On the eve before Nyepi day, the Balinese participate in the Ogoh-ogoh parade. Each village makes their own ogoh-ogoh statue, which is a large scary creature symbolising demons or monsters. The Ogoh-ogoh statues are carried through the island and at the end of the parade they are burnt – symbolising self-purification, ridding the island of evil spirits and cleansing the island in preparation for the New Year.
On the day of silence the entire island shuts down for 24 hours, lights are kept low, businesses are shut, no travelling is allowed – so the usual chaotic roads and streets are dead quiet. People are required to stay indoors, including tourists, no one is allowed on to the beaches and streets and even the airport is shut for 24 hours. The only people seen outdoors are the Pecalang (security that ensure the restrictions are being followed) and emergency services. Nyepi is a day that Bali can have a break and recharge to start the New Year.
The day after Nyepi, activity picks up again and life returns to normal. The Balinese have many ceremonies but Nyepi is by far the most important in their calendar.
Upcoming Nyepi celebrations:
2022: March 3
2023: March 22
A procession of Balinese women taking offerings to the temple during Galungan and Kuningan
Galungan and Kuningan
A celebration of good vs evil. Galungan and Kuninang takes place over a 10 day period where the ancestors are believed to visit their families on the island. The Balinese need to be hospitable and welcoming to these visitors and do so through prayer and offerings. Balinese women spend time make beautiful offerings out of flowers and fruit, these offerings are then taken in processions to the temples. During this ceremony the streets in Bali are decorated with penjors – large bamboo poles beautifully decorated with offerings hanging from the end.
Galungan ends with Kunungan, this is when the ancestors leave earth. After Kuningan, the Balinese will then visit family and loved ones and enjoy the end of this beautiful ceremony.
Upcoming Galungan and Kuningan celebrations:
2022: 8 - 18 June
2023: 4 – 14 January and 2 – 12 August
A night of meditation and introspection where the Balinese spend the whole night in prayer asking for forgiveness over the past year. The ritual consists of fasting for 24 hours, silence for 12 hours and not sleeping for 36 hours. The aim of Siwa Ratri is to get closer to God, be self-conscious in all things and have self-control in all circumstances. To read more about the origin of Siwa Ratri, click here
Upcoming Siwa Ratri celebrations:
2022: 1 January
2023: 18 February
A traditional Balinese holiday where God shares knowledge through the beautiful goddess Saraswati. The Balinese make offerings and prayers in school, at work and in their homes. Saraswati is a beautiful goddess and is shown having four arms holding a zither, scriptures and rosary beads.
Upcoming Saraswati celebrations:
2022: 5 February
2023: 26 January
A beautifully decorated penjor
Four days after Saraswati Day the Balinese celebrate Pagerwasi Day. Pagerwasi Day is observed to protect the knowledge that was gained during Saraswati and shield this knowledge from evil forces. The celebration rituals are like Galungan, where households erect penjors and make offerings to the God Siva. God Siva teaches the Balinese how to behave and not give into evil desires. This ceremony is held in the middle of the night.
Upcoming Pagerwasi Day celebrations:
2022: 30 March
Offerings are made in celebration of animals
A celebration of animals, which are highly valued by the Balinese. On this day, animals are celebrated for their assistance in human life and their role in maintaining the life cycle on earth. Household animals such as cows, pigs, chickens and ducks are fed special foods and sprinkled with holy water.
Upcoming Tumpek Kandang celebrations:
2022: 29 January and 28 August
Offerings and prayers to God for tools made of metals
Tumpek Landep Day
The celebration of this day is to remind the Balinese to keep sharpening their minds in order to avoid bad behaviour and evil desires. Recently, however, it has become a day of celebrating everything made of metal including motorcycles and cars. These metal objects can also include weapons such as guns and knives.
Upcoming Tumpek Landep Day celebrations:
2022: 9 April and 5 November
A Balinese temple decorated for Odalan
A Balinese village temple celebration – the Balinese honour the deities that look after the temples throughout the island and invite them down from Mount Agung to partake in the festivities. Prayers, offerings, dances and songs are performed over a 3 day period, temples are decorated beautifully and penjors are erected. Idols or symbols related to these deities are cleaned and bought to the temple.
Upcoming Odalan celebrations:
2022: 3 March
Offerings during the Tumpek Uduh Ceremony
Tumpek Uduh Ceremony
Balinese people make offerings to Sanghyang Sangkara – Lord of food. The offerings are made in exchange for good crops and food throughout the upcoming year. This ceremony also honours trees and plants, the main aim being to maintain a harmonious relationship with nature.
Upcoming Tumpek Uduh celebrations:
2022: 14 May and 10 December
The Balinese celebrate the full moon, or Purnama
The Full Moon Ceremony
The Balinese celebrate the full moon, or Purnama, once a month, as this is the time that God Chandra blesses the people by offering light. The Balinese prepare offerings of fruit, food and flowers and then visit the temples for prayer and meditation. Full moon rituals also include bathing in holy water at the temple, this is to cleanse oneself of all sins and allow you to remain youthful.
When you visit Bali, make sure that you book during one of these ceremonies - its truly worth attending!