heavens were more important to early humans than they are today.
The heavens provided measurable certainty and could be used to
measure time. The earth spun on its axis once a day; the moon
spun round the earth once a month; and the earth revolved round
the sun once a year.
are three calendars operating simultaneously in Bali:
Julius Caesar reformed the calendar, moving from a lunar to
a solar year. The solar year, however, extends over 365 days,
five hours and 48 and 3/4 minutes. The Julian calendar, named
after him, solved the problem by assuming that the earth revolved
around the sun in 365 and a quarter days. Accordingly the first,
second and third years were 365 days and the fourth year, the
leap year, was 366 days. The problem was that each year the
calendar lost just over 11 minutes and millennium lost about
The international Gregorian calendar is named after Pope Gregory.
In 1582 Pope Gregory XIII solved the problem with the Julian
calendar by eliminating 10 days from 5 to 14 October and the
future years 1600 and 2000 would be leap years but 1700, 1800
and 1900 would not be. It took some centuries for the rest of
the world to follow suit.
Hindu-Balinese lunar calendar developed in South India in 78
Javanese-Balinese calendar which consists of 210 days.
Gregorian calendar is a relatively recent introduction to Indonesia.
It came with the Dutch and is used for civil and business affairs.
are a number of civic events and holidays, which include:
21 April: Kartini Day
Day celebrates Kartini, the Indonesian heroine of women's emancipation.
She was born in the village of Mayong in the municipality of
Jepara in Central Java in 1879. Her father, Raden Mas Adipati
Arlo Soroningrat, was a mayor. He had 12 children from several
was lucky to receive a Dutch education. This was normally reserved
for Dutch and children of royal families. But she had to stop
at 12 years because of the old Javanese tradition of pinjit,
which meant she had to stay at home and wait for marriage. During
her days at home she wrote to her many friends abroad. She was
a rebel against the strong tradition of sex discrimination.
24 years she obeyed her father and married the mayor of Rembang,
Raden Adipati Joyodiningrat, who was 50 and already had three
wives and dozens of children. She had a scholarship to study
in Europe, but her hopes to study abroad were dashed. Instead
she established a special school for local girls.
Day is a school holiday.
August: Independence Day
This celebrates the day in 1945 when President Sukarno proclaimed
independence from the Dutch. It took another five years of war
actually to achieve it.
The day in 1906, when the royal family of Denpasar committed
puputan or mass suicide, bringing to an end the Denpasar nobility.
It is commemorated in the Pupuan Badung Square every year when
a fair is held.
day in 1946 when the Balinese hero, Lieutenant Colonel I Gusti
Ngurah Rai and his 96 Balinese troops battled against the Dutch
for independence and were all wiped out. It is Heros' Day. He
was proclaimed a National Hero in 1975. The airport, where his
statue stands, is named after him.
22 December: Indonesia's Women's Day
is observed in remembrance of the first Indonesian Women's Congress
on 22 December 1928.
calendars give an indication of the way the Balinese actually
see time. In the West we see time as a linear progression. The
World has a beginning and is destined to have an ending. The Balinese,
however, see time as circular, like birth and reincarnation. Balinese
music is circular too.
Balinese calendars track social and natural cycles. The Saka calendar
calculates lunar periods. The Pawukon calendar records the growth
of a Balinese rice plant, 210 days, from germination to flowering.
The Pawukon or permutational calendar is by far the most important
for the Balinese.
Saka calendar arrived with the Javanese Majapahit kingdom in the
14th century. It is still used in parts of India and has 12 lunar
months; each month is called a Sasih and has a name in Sanskrit.
Every Sasih has 30 lunar days. Each Sasih ends on the day of the
new moon, called Tilem. The next Sasih begins the following day.
Full moon, Purnama, occurs in the middle of the month.
Saka year commences in March or early April. The last day of the
lunar year is the day of the new moon of the ninth month (tilem
kasanga). New Year's Day is called Nyepi and is important to all
Balinese. It is the only island-wide event and one of the few
ceremonies timed according to the Saka rather than the Pawukon
calendar. The Saka system is about 78/79 years behind the Gregorian
year. Nyepi in March 2001 was Saka year 1923.
so often the calendar must be correlated with the solar year by
adding an intercalary month. A number of temples use the Saka
calendar to fix their temple ceremonies, but most use the Pawukon
Pawukon calendar, whose origin is in East Java, came with the
Majapahit kingdom in the 14th century, and consists of 30 seven-day
weeks, each of which has a name, and six 35-day months. The
Balinese year, called an uku, is therefore 210 days but the
years are not numbered or named like Gregorian or Saka years,
calendar is not used to measure time. Its purpose is to pinpoint
There are simultaneously and concurrently ten different kinds
of weeks ranging from the one day week to the ten day week.
They follow one another in a fixed order. So, every day has
ten different names, one according to each of the ten cycles.
Many Balinese events are scheduled according to the particular
day of a particular week.
The three-day week determines the markets in Bali. The market
shifts from one village to another on a three-day cycle. For
example, in Ubud, market day is the day called Pasah and in
Payangan it is the day called Kajeng.
The eight day week provides a clue as to the identity of a person
in his or her past life according to the birth day, for example,
a birthday on the first day of the eight day week, Sri, means
the baby is probably a reincarnation of a woman from the mother's
The Balinese calendar encompasses smaller cycles within larger
ones, wheels within wheels. There is an intriguing analogy with
Balinese music. Balinese music is composed on the same basis.
There are interlocking cyclical patterns. Further, small instruments
play short patterns. The larger instruments play at larger intervals
and define the beginning and end of melodies.
The events for which the Pawukon calendar is used are those
that are especially Balinese, like Galungan, Kuningan and temple
anniversaries, odalans. (New Year's Day on the 210-day cycle
is not celebrated.)
Goris in Holidays and Holy Days, 1960, lists 32 holy days in
every Balinese year, which is on average one in every seven,
not including several days' minimum preparation. These days
apply to all Balinese and do not take into account family ceremonies,
like weddings, baby ceremonies.
events are scheduled according to the coincidence of particular
days failing on particular weeks, rather like our Friday 13th.
five-, six- and seven-day weeks are the most important and when
a day falls on all three cycles it is significant. Only once
in 210 days does a day fall on all three cycles (5x6x7). That
day is Galungan. Another significant day falls on the five-
and seven-week cycles, once every 35 days. Another on the six-
and seven-week cycles, once every 42 days. And also on the five-
and six-week cycles, once every 30 days. Every day can therefore
be plotted and its religious significance assessed.
important day is when the third day of the three-day week, Kajeng,
falls on the same day as the fifth day of the five-day week,
Keliwon. This day is called Kajeng-Keliwon and occurs every
15 days. Many temple ceremonies are held on this day. It is
also a day to make special offerings to the bad spirits. Offerings
are more elaborate on that day.
babies are born owing debts to beings in the spirit world and
special offerings have to be made to repay the debt. The particular
type of offerings to be made by the parents can be determined
by reference to the day the child was born on the five-day week
and the seven-day week. There are therefore 35 possible combinations.
An expert determines the position by reference to a special
special coincidence days are the Tumpeks. If, say a birthday,
an oton, fell on a number of special days, it would be regarded
as a very sacred day, for example, if it fell on Kajeng-Kliwon,
Tumpek Wayang, full moon, and a total eclipse.
Tumpeks occur when the sixth day of the seven-day week falls
on fifth day of the five-day week, Keliwon. There are therefore
six of them in each Balinese year of 210 days. The common characteristic
of Tumpek ceremonies is that they show respect for objects.
Man-made objects, when completed, are brought to life through
special ceremonies. This applies to houses, temples, masks,
puppets, musical instruments and weapons. Thereafter they must
be treated with respect and given offerings.
This is a special day for lethal weapons of steel, like krises,
guns and cars. All receive offerings. The purpose is to reactivate
their radiation and turn it to the good of man. Cars, busses and motorcycles receive elaborate palm leaf offerings tied to their front grills and side mirrors - prior to that they are washed, blessed with offerings, prayers, food, incense and holy water.
A special day for certain important trees,
such as coconut trees, which are covered in Balinese clothes
that day. They are requested to be fruitful.
The third one coincides with Kajeng-Keliwon, and is Kuningan.
For details about Kuningan, see the article
entitled Balinese Ceremonies.
This is special for musical
This is a special day for animals. They receive a bath and
special pieces of cloth and offerings on that day, perhaps
even a dog biscuit.
is also Kajeng-Keliwon, special for Wayang Kulit shadow
puppets, which are taken out and given offerings by their
dalang, the puppeteer. For details on Wayang Kulit, see the
article entitled Wayang Kulit: shadow puppet performances.
It also happens to be very unlucky to be born on that day.
before calendars were invented, people watched the moon. An eclipse
of the moon was a momentous event. Judaism, Christianity and Islam
selected the new moon or the full moon for holy days. So did the
Balinese: full moon is known as Purnama and the new moon is known
memory aids for the Pawukon calendar are either made of wood or
cloth. They make interesting souvenirs. The design is standard,
but the shape, colour and layout may vary.
are seven named horizontal rows, which represent the days, and
30 vertical columns, which represent the weeks. Each week has
a name, which is written at the top in the appropriate column.
To read the days, you read down the columns from left to right.
So, every day in the year has a unique combination of day name
and week name.
Balinese know the week names. Most Balinese will know the Balinese
day and week they were born but not necessarily their Gregorian
birthday. They will also know the Balinese day and week of important
ceremonies, such as Galungan, which is Buda Gunggulan, the fourth
day of week 11.
will recall the five-day week. Its most important day is the fifth
day, Keliwon. That is shown on the tika by its own symbol every
five days. The three-day week's most important day, the third
day, Kajeng, is also shown. When these coincide the day is Kajeng-Keliwon,
as mentioned above, when special offerings are made to the malevolent
spirits. The tika makes the day clear.
are other coincidence days, which are important, when special
offerings are placed in family temples, shrines and outside front
gates. You will see this if you stay long enough in Bali.
are numerous symbols on the tika. These give guidance on auspicious
and inauspicious days on which it is good or not good to perform
ceremonies and other matters.
Balinese do not know all these symbols, so they go to a priest
or balian (shaman) for advice on appropriate days to carry out
tika below shows a complete Balinese year of 210 days, an uku.
Each of the 30 weeks is listed on the left. The days of the seven-day
week are listed along the top. The tika also shows the other nine
weeks. The three-day week is superimposed, in this case shown
by the numbers 1, 2 and 3. Day 1 is Pasah, day 2 is Beteng and
day 3 is Kajeng. So, the first day is Redite (our Sunday) of the
seven-day week and Pasah of the three-day week. Instead of numbers,
dots, lines and crosses are used. There are symbols for each of
the various weeks.
Balinese calendars are masterpieces of information. They show
the uku, the day in each of the ten-week cycles, including the
one day one, the day and month in the lunar-solar calendar, the
day, year and month in the Gregorian and Islamic calendars, the
day, month, year and year-name in the Chinese calendar and all
important holidays within these calendars, as well as Christian