are numerous ceremonies in Bali, some of which are private, some
public. Some are described throughout the book. To attend you
must wear Balinese dress: see the article
entitled Balinese Dress and Textiles. It is unnecessary for
tourists to be formally dressed: a sarong, sash and covered arms
are five different categories of ceremonies, the panca yadnya.
There are rituals for:
gods (dewa yadnya)
example would be a temple anniversary, odalan.
higher spirits (pitra yadnya)
This includes the ancestors before they have been deified, such
as cremation or Ngaben.
The consecration of priests and priestesses
Humans (manusa yadnya)
These are rites of passage ceremonies from conception to just
before death, such as pre-natal rites, birth ceremonies, the
12 day, 42 day and three months' old baby ceremonies, tooth-filing,
Evil spirits (bhuta yadnya)
means element; kala, another word for demon, means time or energy.
Demons are personifications of forces derived from the five
elements and bring misfortune to man. The purpose of these ceremonies
is to placate the demons and bring harmony to the world. One
such purification sacrifice, taur kasanga, takes place on the
last day of the lunar year at Besakih and elsewhere on the island.
Balinese rituals are preceded by a purification ceremony to banish
the evil spirits before the divine powers are addressed. This
is done by offerings, holy water and hand gestures.
follows brief details of some of the private family ceremonies.
is performed for the welfare of mother and child to anchor the
embryo firmly in the womb.
father collects the baby's placenta, the ari-ari, which is the
most important element of the Kanda Empat (for an explanation
see the article entitled
Balinese Religion), takes it home, washes it, places it
in a coconut with flowers and money, wraps it in a white cloth
and buries it outside the door of his home. As you look out,
girls' placentas are buried on the left and boys' on the right.
The grave is covered with a black stone and spiky pandanus leaves
to protect it. Finally a symbolic cremation fire is lit on the
The baby can now be given a name. In some parts a grandparent
may visit a clairvoyant priest, balian tenung, or he may be
called to carry out a purification ceremony. The priest has
the ability to communicate with the ancestors to identify whom
the baby is a reincarnation of.
Mother and child are impure for 42 days after the birth. She
cannot enter sacred places like temples and the child must be
protected from witches. For the first three months the child
is very vulnerable to witches and sorcerers. At the end of the
period the mother and child cease to be impure and a small purification
ceremony is held.
105 days or 3 months (tigang odalan)
This is the first big ceremony and takes place in the family
compound. It is the day that a child attains a normal state
and may enter temples. The baby ceases to be a divine creature.
It is the day that the baby first touches the ground - described
as a return to the earth. The ceremony takes place in the morning.
Up to this point the baby will always have been carried. In
some parts of Bali the baby is put into a cage, like those used
for roosters, after touching the ground. The priest gives the
child its real name. A similar ceremony takes place in the palaces
in Java, which may throw light on its origins.
The Kanda Empat have 108 helpers and an exorcism is needed for
them, so that they do not harm the child. There is often a Wayang
210 days or First Oton
This is the baby's first Balinese birthday, which takes place
one Balinese year (six months) after birth.
The baby has its first haircut, a symbolic release of energies.
The hair is cut from the five cardinal directions symbolically
to remove impurities and is either buried or thrown in the river.
There is a further exorcism ceremony to expel the 108 helpers.
All these rites of passage ceremonies are intended to remove
impurities caused by the birth and the sins of previous lives.
A small ceremony is carried out at a girl's first menstruation.
From this age young people come under the influence of Semara
and Ratih, the gods of love.
shape of teeth separates the gods and humans from animals, birds
and ogres. The former have flat teeth and the latter have pointed
As mentioned in the article
entitled Balinese Symbolism the purpose of a tooth-filing
or matatah is to remove impurity by eliminating or reducing
the Sad Ripu, the Balinese six deadly sins, lust, greed, anger,
intoxication (through drink or passion), sadness, arrogance
and jealousy. Raffles in his History of Java noted that the
Balinese are "strangers to the vices of drunkenness, libertinism
and conjugal infidelity..."
The Sad Ripu are eliminated symbolically by flattening the two
upper teeth that most resemble an animal's teeth, the canines,
and the four incisors. The lower teeth are left alone, as desire
and passion should not be killed completely. The Balinese believe
It is impossible to fulfil one's duties, one's karma, with these
teeth present, so every Balinese will have his teeth filed,
usually at around 16 to 18 years, but it can be at any age,
and if the person dies first, the ceremony will be performed
on the corpse. It is also beautifies the person. It often takes
place at the same time as marriage as the offerings are the
It is an important ceremony and very expensive. Much help is
needed to prepare the offerings. The family gods and ancestors
are invited, the family compound is decorated lavishly, guests
are accommodated and fed, musicians and gamelan orchestras are
hired, fine Balinese clothes and jewellery are worn and beautiful
textiles are used. A high caste Brahman priest, a pedanda, and
his attendants may perform the ceremony.
The ceremony takes place on an auspicious day and, as mentioned,
it is likely to be combined with other ceremonies. Further,
a number of people in the same family are likely to have their
teeth filed at the same time. The ceremony takes place in the
Bale Dangin, the ceremonial pavilion, in the family compound.
The platform acts as a bed and is covered with a mattress, protective
ritual cloths, big pillows and a woven bamboo mat on which is
drawn Semara and Ratih, male and female figures, the sun and
the moon, the sky and the land. Usually two people lie down
for the teeth-filing at a time, the eldest first. Maybe 20 would
be done at one session. The family crowds around and the gamelan
orchestra plays throughout.
The pedanda "kills" the teeth by hitting them with
a metal rod and draws symbolic letters on them. The person who
does the filing is the Sangging. He chants some mantras and
pours holy water over the filees, who lie down and work begins.
A small cylinder of sugar cane is put into their mouths and
the six upper teeth are filed. The extent of the filing depends
on the wishes of the person. It may only be a few symbolic strokes
The filings are spat into a silver bowl and transferred to a
yellow coconut, which is buried in the family temple behind
a shrine. As the filing continues the filees check progress
with a mirror and when it is over the Sangging brings the teeth
back to life again with a mantra. Then there are prayers in
the family temple and photographs. There is often a Wayang
Sometimes there is a mass village-wide tooth-filing. This occurred
in Ubud in July 2000. At that time over 100 men and women had
their teeth filed in public.
Unmarried motherhood is not an acceptable concept in Balinese
culture, although premarital pregnancy is common and probably
the norm. Pregnancy usually provokes the wedding. After marriage
the woman moves to her husband's household and performs her
religious duties at his family temple. Without a father and
his family temple, both child and mother would be rootless and
homeless. Balinese social events are also religious. An unmarried
mother and child would be unable to enter any temple and would
effectively be banished by their community.
Weddings cannot occur during or immediately after the 10 day
holiday between Galungan and Kuningan.
There is a preference for marriage to a patrilineal cousin (one's
father's brother's son or daughter). See the section Kinship
in the article entitled
Names, Titles and Castes for an explanation.
are three traditional forms of marriage:
This is now against the law.
Everyone goes along with it but pretends not to know about
it, is common and the least expensive.
is a wedding agreed upon by the families. Right up to the
1950s arranged marriages were common. Conservative communities
and social elites favoured it.
The ceremony takes place in the boy's family compound and
can be as elaborate as the family wish. The girl leaves her
family temple and, unless she already is a relation, joins
the boy's family and ancestral group and will thereafter tend
his ancestors. There are separate ceremonies to deal with
her farewells as she says goodbye to her family ancestors
- the mepahit ritual - and joins her husband's family temple.
Her children belong to her new family temple.
The wedding ceremony is fun; the couple wear their best clothes,
gold thread and headdresses. Both wear make-up. They look
like a prince and princess. Both wear make-up. She will have
real gold flowers in her hair and he will have a kris in the
back of his sarong. A priest will perform the rituals. Many
symbolic actions take place, like rolling an egg over the
couple's bodies and allowing a duck to touch their faces with
its bill. Nowadays there is sometimes a Western style reception.
There is often a Wayang Kulit performance.
Marriage allows the husband to join the banjar. At marriage
he becomes an adult. See the article
entitled Balinese Organisations for details on the banjar.
As mentioned above, the bride joins her husband's family temple
and leaves her own. If it happens that a couple have only
daughters, they will be left with no women in the family.
Such a situation cannot be allowed to happen, as it would
mean that ceremonies could not be carried out properly. There
would be no one to look after the family temple and the cycle
of reincarnation would be broken.
To remedy this situation a male may have to be adopted. Another
remedy is for the bride to take the role of the male heir
in her own family and the husband becomes a nominal female.
This is called a nyentana marriage. He inherits the family
house and temple. These marriages can be difficult and the
husbands can become the subject of derision in the village.
It helps if he is a member of the same descent group or dadia
as his wife and her parents.
It is possible for a man to have more than one wife, but only
a few do nowadays. It is usually only among the higher castes
and the wealthy. Men do not usually take more than three wives.
women are regarded honourably in the ancient Hindu scriptures,
like the Manawa Drama Castro, which implies that when a woman
is respected, the gods are delighted, they tend to be second
class citizens. They do not have a vote at village banjar
meetings, especially on matters of customary law. The village
chiefs are invariably men. Many aristocratic women are expected
to take care of domestic chores, such as preparing offerings,
which prevents them from being able to pursue higher education.
All Balinese have a duty to marry. It is vital to have children,
as only they can perform the rituals for the dead and purification
of souls, which are indispensable for reincarnation. Childlessness
and impotence are grounds for divorce and in myths, ogres
in the afterlife punish those without children. Often they
are hung upside down from a tree and beaten. Being upside
down is particularly degrading for a Balinese, as the head
would be in touch with the ground: see the article
entitled Balinese Symbolism.
The birth of twins of the opposite sex to a Sudra family is
regarded as a form of incest. The village is regarded as spiritually
impure for 42 days after their birth. In the old days, until
Sukarno abolished the custom in 1962, the whole family had
to move to a house specially built for them outside the village.
The parents had to pay for purification ceremonies and may
have had to go begging. Three days before the 42nd day the
gods of the three main village temples were taken to the river
or sea for purification. On the 42nd day they were brought
back to their temples. The family were brought from their
house outside the village to the crossroads. Offerings to
the gods and evil spirits were presented. There was music
and the Wayang Kulit ceremony is performed. When it was over,
the family could return to their home and live normally.
Even today twins born to a commoner result in postponement
of major ceremonies. In the days of the Balinese kings the
twins were taken as slaves by the king.
This does, not, however apply to twins born of a high-caste
mother. Quite the reverse. It is auspicious. They are supposed
to bring good luck. In fact they are deemed to have been married
in another world and can therefore marry in this world. Cokorda
Gede Agung Sukawati of Ubud, born in 1910, was a twin, but
he did not marry his sister.
The idea that twins bring bad luck may date from pre-history.
In the days of hunter-gatherers a woman could never nurse
and carry two children. Statistically every 100 or so births
Traditionally divorce is living apart. A wife, who returns
to her descent group, can bring only her own possessions.
Her rights are so limited that most women do not dare leave
their husbands. Since ancestry is traced through the father's
side, children are considered to belong more to their father
than their mother and she loses any rights in respect of them.
It is regarded so badly amongst aristocratic women that if
she returns to her family compound, she will be treated like
a servant and has to speak in the highest form of Balinese
to her parents, brothers and sisters.
A high-caste woman should not marry a commoner. In the days
of the Balinese kings both could be killed. These days the
existence of the rule is rather controversial.
Marriage is largely about inheritance and responsibility for
the family temple. Customarily daughters do not inherit. Male
offspring take over responsibilities and authority, both within
the family and the community. Farmlands are normally divided
amongst the sons equally. One son, usually the youngest, inherits
the family house and temple and is responsible for maintaining
the family temple and carrying out the ceremonies associated
with it. If there are no sons or the children are all daughters
who marry out, then the village, the banjar, acquires the
land. Discrimination against women is more noticeable among
aristocrats and high caste families as they are more cut off
from modern outside life.
Marriage denotes a break in the life cycle. Up to and including
marriage, parents are responsible for their children's purification
and ritual protection; once married, the younger generation
becomes responsible for their parents' protection, primarily
to carry out the death rites properly.
As soon as someone dies the hollow slit drum, the kulkul, is
beaten to summon help from the banjar, which comprises men from
the neighbourhood. They come to the deceased's house and wash
The body has to be purified with holy water to wash away totally
the pollution of death. The soul of the deceased hovers above
the body bewildered. Wounds are covered with tamarind paste,
so that they heal in the afterlife. Ornaments are placed on
the corpse. Coloured string is tied around the wrists. Mirrors
are put on the eyes to give clear sight and beauty. The corpse
is then wrapped in a white shroud inscribed with symbols and
The body has now been prepared for burial or cremation. Bodies
are frequently prepared and buried within hours of death. If
they are not buried the same say, the family will stay up all
night to guard the body against bad spirits. This is a time
when gamblers play cards all night.
It is not known when cremation was introduced to Bali. A Balinese
cremation is very different from a Western one. It is the grandest
and the most important of all Balinese ceremonies. The most
important ceremony as its success, that is to say the correct
carrying out of the ceremony, determines whether or not the
deceased will be reincarnated.
Cremations are exceedingly expensive, so it is not uncommon
for families to share the expense. Sometimes collective cremations
are organized, like the one in Ubud in July 2000, when all 72
bodies in the village graveyard were cremated in one day or
in December 2001 when 830 remains from 37 villages joined in
the cremation of Ida Tjokorda Mengwi, a descendant from the
13th generation of the King of Mengwi, who reigned in the 17th
and beginning of the 18th centuries. Unless the family is rich
or a priest or a member of a royal family is the deceased, they
are first buried to allow the family time to save up.
It should not be put off too long as uncremated spirits are
restless and can cause the family and the village trouble. Burial
places the soul under the protection of Durga, goddess of death,
who reigns over cemeteries until cremation. Uncremated dead
require frequent pacification by means of offerings placed on
their graves, where they dwell, unfreed from their corpse. Galungan
(see below) is one such time that the dead need pacification.
As mentioned priests and members of a royal family are not allowed
to be buried, as they are too elevated to be laid in impure
ground, so instead they lie in state until preparations can
be made for a cremation.
The ceremony takes place on an auspicious day. The family compound
will be roofed in coconut leaves and temporary shrines erected.
Many women will visit and make the various types of offerings
required for the large number of ceremonies involved. They culminate
in the cremation itself.
Chickens and ducks will be sacrificed. For a medium sized cremation
two or three dozen women are required to make the offerings.
It takes several weeks and they will be fed throughout. This
adds to the cost. High caste priests, pedandas, carry out several
of the preliminary ceremonies and officiate at the cremation.
Women make the offerings. Men from the banjar make the sarcophagus.
It is in the shape of an animal. Status determines what kind.
A bull is made for priests and high caste men and a cow for
women. The bull is Siwa's mount. Siwa is the God of death and
destruction. High lords have a winged lion and lesser lords
a deer. Sudras have a mythological animal, which has the head
of an elephant with tusks and the tail of a fish. Sudras may
also be permitted to have a bull or cow if a member of the family
has carried out a valuable service for a high caste ruler or
Having said this, it is not as rigid as it used to be and it
is becoming a matter of choice which kind of sarcophagus is
used. Either way there are always four feet to symbolise the
four invisible brothers or sisters - see the article
entitled Balinese Religion for details of the Kanda Empat.
The men also build the cremation tower, the bade, which symbolises
the universe. At the base is the world-turtle, Bedawang Nala,
surrounded by snakes; in the middle, the world of man is shown
by leafy forests and mountains, where the corpse is placed and
at the top, there are meru roofs, like those of a pagoda, always
an uneven number.
The meru roofs represent the tier of heaven to which the deceased
aspires. Royal families have eleven tiers, an ordinary lord
seven or nine, lesser gentry three or five and Sudras one. At
the top a king may have a sculptured lingga and a priest may
have a padmasana (for these see the article
entitled Balinese Temples and Holy Men). Below the top section
is the shelf for the body (if it has not been buried) or an
effigy of the body (if it has been buried). If the body has
been buried, it is dug up, wrapped in a white cloth and waits
in the cemetery. A big Bhoma face to scare away evil spirits
is carved on the back of the tower.
The tower can be 60 or 70 feet high. The height indicates status.
Nowadays telegraph poles have to be lowered to let the tower
pass. Men who are of lesser rank than the deceased carry the
On the main day guests and men from the banjar arrive at the
house. If the body is in the house, it will have been prepared,
with a Brahman priest in attendance, and will be placed in the
cremation tower and tied to the shelf and covered by a white
There are three main phases. In the case of a large royal cremation,
these would take place on separate days. The first is the Purification,
which is dedicated to washing the body and decorating it with
various things, like mirrors on the eyelids, flowers in the
nostrils, wax in the ears, a ruby in the mouth and iron on the
arms. The high priest will sprinkle holy water on it. The second
day is the Obeisance, when friends and family view the body.
The third day is the final Annihilation.
If the deceased is a king, a Naga or dragon may be carried in
a procession and placed to the west side of the remains. The
Naga is a symbol of life. Two high priests will shoot arrows
at it, which are intended to release the deceased's soul from
The procession to the cemetery will then start. The empty sarcophagus,
tied to bamboo poles, will be carried by the banjar men, who
intentionally turn it round roughly to confuse the deceased's
spirit, so that it will not return home. At crossroads it is
turned round three times in an anti-clockwise direction. A member
of the family rides on the sarcophagus. Then there will be a
long procession with a very long white cloth attached to the
tower at one end. This allows those in the procession to have
contact with the tower, which brings up the rear.
At the cemetery the sarcophagus is opened and the body - or
the effigy - put inside and covered with offerings and pieces
of cloth. The pedanda will pour in lots of holy water. Then
the sarcophagus will be closed and firewood underneath set ablaze.
Grief should not be displayed, as mourning would be an impediment
to the soul's passage to the next world. The soul of the deceased
may become doubtful about moving on.
After the body is burnt, the family collect the ashes and bits
of bone. They wrap some in a white cloth and put the rest in
a yellow coconut. The pedanda will ring his bell and recite
mantras to help the soul's release.
Family members will pray and throw the ashes in the sea or a
river, which leads to the sea. In Ubud, River Campuan is used.
Thereby the body's elements will be purified and returned to
The grandness of a cremation does not guarantee a good afterlife.
It is karma, good deeds, that does that.
Suttee, the practice dating from at least the 1400s, whereby
wives of Balinese rajas sacrificed themselves by jumping into
the flames, sometimes stabbing themselves at the same time,
was outlawed by the Dutch in 1895. Apparently secret ones occurred
until well into the 1920s. Balinese women still sacrifice their
hair at their husband's or indeed a close relative's cremation.
The Bali Aga people - see the article
entitled Balinese History - Pre-history to the Europeans
for their origins - carry out death rites differently. The Trunyan
people expose the corpse to the elements and the Tenganan people
bury their dead.
A number of hours, days or weeks later, a second ceremony, sometimes
called the second "cremation", takes place to complete
the matter. It is called Nyekah and it releases the soul, which
still has some links to the body, from earth to heaven.
Many of the activities are similar. There are no bones, but
there is an effigy of the spirit of the deceased, offerings,
a tower (this time in white and gold), a procession to the sea
or river and a disposal of ashes and everything else into the
water. The final ritual allows the soul to join God and become
a divine ancestor, taking its place and being worshipped in
the family temple, and protecting its family's destiny on earth.
At this point the cremated dead are no longer individuals. They
are good-natured ancestor gods.
All temples, public and private, have an odalan, usually every
Balinese year of 210 days, which is the anniversary of their
founding and dedication.
of the three main village temples have odalans every Balinese
year. Pura Desa has one every lunar year of 355 days. This means
that the Balinese are devoting one day in twenty to the village
temple rituals alone. At least a week of preparation is required
for each ceremony, often much more. So village temples take
up at least one day in every seven.
work is shared, but it is still quite considerable, especially
when other public and private ceremonies are taken into account.
New Year's Eve, Ngerupuk
For weeks before New Year's Eve a great din is made, banging
tins and letting off firecrackers to frighten away the evil
spirits from Bali. The purpose is to cast them out totally.
It is an exorcism to purify the villages and towns. Large-scale
cockfights are held.
On New Year's Eve the Balinese carry out a ritual called Tawur,
the aim of which is to give something back to nature. If you
take, you should return, otherwise the balance is lost. The
ritual also takes place at a village, district, regency and
provincial level. In Ubud it takes place at the crossroads.
Crossroads are places considered tenget, highly charged in a
supernatural way. The ceremony also takes place where there
are Hindu communities in other parts of Indonesia, such as Kalimantan,
Sulawesi, Sumatra and Jakarta.
In the evening there are great processions around the villages
of huge statues in grotesque shapes accompanied by loud gamelan
music. They are symbols of demonic spirits, called Ogoh-Ogoh.
They are made from wood and bamboo, covered with papier-mâché
and Styrofoam. They are then painted with garish colours. Some
reach three meters in height. The tradition became popular in
The youths of the villages work to raise money to make and create
them. They can be very inventive and frightening. There are
usually some dragon-like figures and other mythical creatures.
In the early days the artists took inspiration from Balinese
folklore but latterly Hollywood characters have been a source
of inspiration. Some even have Mohawk hairstyles. There is always
the black, hooded, faceless angel of death
A ceremony to cleanse the Ogoh-Ogoh is held before the parade
takes place and after the parade they are usually burned at
the village crossroads, but recently some have been kept and
New Year's Day: Nyepi
New Year's Day usually takes place in March or April. It is
calculated according to the Saka calendar.
On New Year's Day total silence prevails. In 2000 the airport
was closed for the first time. This was repeated in 2001 and
2002. The ports shut down. Shops close. Cars are forbidden.
Nobody leaves his or her compound. It is forbidden to turn on
electricity, cook or light fires. Balinese radio ceases. The
Balinese people fast for 24 hours. There are four basic restrictions,
the four brata: no fire, no working, no travelling, and no leisure
The idea is that Bali looks deserted and the evil spirits will
leave the island. Men from the banjar, the traditional village
guards, the pecalang, wearing black or red shirts with chequered
black and white poleng sarongs, patrol the streets to ensure
compliance and levy fines on transgressors.
On a personal level the silence, serenity and emptiness should
lead to a revitalization of inner creative energy and enlightenment.
Often described as the Balinese Christmas, this is the most
important day of the 210 day Balinese year, the start of the
period during which the deified ancestors descend to the family
temple and are entertained and presented with offerings and
prayers. Actually, strictly, they come down five days before
Galungan. Those still in the cemetery will be given offerings
as well. The villages are beautifully decorated with penjors.
The roads are particularly beautiful, especially when the penjors
are fresh. Each village has its own style of penjor. Business
stops. Schools close.
For the three days before, preparations are at their most intensive
and disruptive spirits abound. It is a time to guard against
arguments. On the first of these days bananas are bought or
picked so that they will be ripe for Galungan. Tapé,
a mildly alcoholic fermented rice pudding, is also prepared.
The next day is spent making the cakes. The day before Galungan
is called Pemampahan, which means to slaughter the animals,
namely pigs. The meat is finely minced and either wrapped around
thick skewers and barbecued as saté or mixed into a fiery
assortment called lawar. It is also the last day to erect the
On the day itself, always a Wednesday, in the eleventh week
of the 210 day Balinese calendar, prayers are said, offerings
made and families visited. There are barongs on the street,
with crashing cymbals and gongs. It will dance outside each
house for a few coins to banish the evil spirits. Families continue
to visit each other the next day. The holiday ends ten days
later on the day called Kuningan.
Galungan also commemorates an historic battle, which symbolises
good over evil. In 8 AD a bad giant king called Sang Mayadenawa
forbade the Bali Aga Balinese people from carrying out their
religious ceremonies. With the help of many Aryas from East
Bali, a fierce battle took place and the king was killed. Peace
The Galungan kind of offerings are only made three times a year:
Galungan, Kuningan and for family temple ceremonies.
Kuningan is also a day of prayers and visiting. Special offerings
are made of yellow rice, rice made yellow by turmeric. The word
for yellow is kuning. This marks the day the ancestors return
to heaven. Actually, strictly they returned five days earlier.
It commemorates the spirits of the heroes who were killed during
the battle against Sang Mayadenawa.
In Klungkung in the temple Paksa Bali, a Perang Dewa ceremony
takes place - a symbolic fight between deified ancestors. It
is very sensational. Many of the participants go into trance.
Saraswati Day takes place on the last day of the Pawukon calendar
and is devoted to the goddess of learning, Saraswati,
the wife of Brahma, the god of creation. She lives on the tip
of the human tongue, and in written letters inscribed in poems
on lontars and on the petals of lotus blossoms.
Her day is a public holiday in Bali. Offerings are made to books,
which may be covered with an ornate piece of cloth. There are
no classes but there are special ceremonies in the schools.
Students pray at the shrines in the school. No letters may be
crossed out or any writing deleted on that day.
According to a religious text, Purwagama, our ancestors used
to live like animals. Brahma sent Saraswati to change them into
humans. She created poetry by attaching letters to the inner
and outer worlds. By this means humans were brought into existence,
giving them an inner self. Letters are a key to the inner and
outer worlds. See the symbolism of letters in the
article entitled Balinese Symbolism.
The day after Saraswati Day the Balinese clean themselves with
water that has been blessed. Many people go to the beach in
the morning to pray and bathe themselves with sea water (melukat).
In the evening they eat a smoked duck feast.
Coma Ribek or Somaribek
The following day the Balinese pray to Dewi Sri, the rice Goddess,
for wealth. No money is supposed to pass hands on this day.
The same evening the Balinese fast and stay awake and meditate
for 36 hours. On this day Siwa carried out his most important
meditation. Those who do the same will be blessed and rewarded.
following day offerings are made to Pramesti Guru for his blessing.
This is to achieve balance in the world and its creatures.
are many, but two stand out in importance:
is a large purification ceremony, which takes place once a decade.
The Balinese call it a year that ends in a zero.
Eka Dasa Rudra
is the greatest of all Balinese festivals, an enormous purification
ceremony, which takes place once a century. The Balinese call
it a year that ends in two zeros. The last one took place on
28 March 1979, Saka year 1900. The aim is to strengthen the
spiritual life of those taking part, leading to harmony, justice
is not clear when the ceremony had been performed in previous
centuries. It seems to have been performed during the reign
of Dalem Waturenggong towards the middle of the 16th century,
when the kingdom of Gelgel was at its height, under the direction
of Nirartha, the priest.
Dasa Rudra means the eleven Rudras. Rudra is a god associated
with wildness and danger, the Vedic antecedent of Siwa, with
whom he later became linked. Eleven expresses the idea that
he is everywhere in all directions.
was planned to have the ceremony in 1963, but that was Saka
year 1984, which did not end in two zeros. Texts do allow it
to be held on special occasions, if there is severe disharmony,
like earthquakes, eruptions, plagues and wars. It was felt by
some that such a time existed. The festival began on 10 October
1962 and continued until 20 April 1962. The focal point of the
whole ceremony, the great sacrifice, taur eka dasa rudra, was
due on 8 March 1963, the last day of the Saka year.
the ceremony the Balinese were asked not to cremate their dead
and not even to announce publicly, by beating the slit-drum
kulkul that a death had occurred. Bodies were carried quietly
to the graveyard and buried. Post-cremation rites that purify
the soul of a body already cremated were, however, allowed.
offerings were mind-boggling - more than 50 buffaloes, scores
of other animals, thousands of ducks and chickens, tens of thousands
of bananas, eggs and coconuts, tons of rice.
February, during the preparations, Mount Agung began to erupt:
see the article
entitled Balinese History - the 20th century.
Ceremonies may be carried out in three different levels:
Madia or average.
Mista or simple. sanggar cucuk.
are sometimes sub-divided. They are all equally valid. The level,
number, size and complexity of the offerings depend on the status
of the people involved, their wealth and the occasion.
yadnya rituals with the generic name of caru begin with the offering
of one fowl (eka sata) of multi-coloured plumage places at the
foot of a little bamboo shrine. The next level is five fowl (panca
sata) and five shrines, the colour of each fowl's plumage corresponding
to its direction. Larger bhuta yadnya ceremonies, called taur,
require sacrifices of four-footed animals as well as fowls, a
greater number of other offerings, the tall elaborate sanggar
tawang shrine and the presence of a high priest.
are several graded divisions of taur sacrifices, increasing in
size from taur agung to taur gentuh to Panca Wali Krama and finally
Eka Dasa Rudra.