Bali's Culture and Traditions – Public Holidays in Bali

For everyone that has been to Bali before, you probably noticed little offerings on the side of the road in front of every little shop. When you wake up early you can see, especially the women dressed in their sarongs walking around with a small bottle containing water, little leaf shells filled with flowers and incense. Every morning Balinese Hindus offer water, flowers and fire to their Gods for good luck. Sometimes you see a cigarette in the little offering, sometimes rice and biscuits. People here give what they can and what they like themselves. These are only a few things that make the Island of Gods so special, so charming, so magical.

This month we celebrate Melasti on 25. March. Melasti is a Hindu Balinese purification ceremony and ritual, which according to Balinese calendar is held several days prior to the Nyepi holy day. Melasti was meant as the ritual to cleanse the world from all the filth of sin and bad karma, through the symbolic act of acquiring the Tirta Amerta, “the water of life”. It is also said to stop the rain and it is the beginning of dry season and High season in Bali. The streets will be closed and thousands of beautifully dressed Balinese walk from the village to the beach. Everyone is dressed in white.

Hari Raya Nyepi is probably the biggest ceremony in the Balinese calendar. The day of Silence, so silent even the airport is closed. Kids and teenagers prepare for weeks in advance their Ogoh-Ogoh’s (Monsters) which they only reveal in a big festival and competition the day before Nyepi. The strongest and best looking Ohoh-Ogoh wins, the creators get a prize.
After the festival, everyone goes home the monsters are placed on the side of the roads all over Bali and Bali falls asleep from 6am-6pm. The lights need to be switched off and even the chicken and dogs seem to sleep for a day. Nobody is allowed to leave the house after sunrise until end of the day on 28. March this year. It’s a day of reflection… The Balinese Hindus follow a ritual called Catur, Brata Penyepian, roughly the ‘Four Nyepi Prohibitions’. These include amati geni or ‘no fire’, amati lelungan or ‘no travel’, amati karya ‘no activity’, and amati lelanguan ‘no entertainment’.

On the 5. April is Hari Raya Galungan, with Nyepi the biggest holiday in Bali. On Galungan the spirits of deceased relatives who have died and been cremated return to visit their former homes, and the current inhabitants have a responsibility to be hospitable through prayers and offerings. The most obvious sign of the celebrations are the penjor – bamboo poles with offerings suspended at the end. These are installed by the side of roads. Most shops are closed and Balinese go to Family temple to pray.

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