Traditions & Customs

OGOH-OGOH Parade – Bali’s “New Years Eve”

The famous OGOH-OGOH parade is where Balinese men and boys parade large, mythological (mostly demonic) creatures through the streets on the eve of Nyepi.  This is known as Bali’s ‘New Year’s Eve” and is accompanied by much noise and gamelan music.

Ogoh ogoh is a kind of statue / giant doll which is made of light materials eg. combinations of wood, bamboo, paper, and styrofoam, so it is easy to be lifted and paraded. They are usually made by groups of village artists.

As with many creative endeavours based on Balinese Hinduism, the creation of Ogoh-ogoh represents spirituality inspired by Hindu philosophy.

An Ogoh-ogoh generally stands on a pad built of timber planks/bamboos. The pad is designed to sustain the Ogoh-ogoh while it is being lifted and carried around the village or the town square. There are normally eight or more men carrying the Ogoh-ogoh on their shoulders.

During the procession, the Ogoh-ogoh is rotated counter-clockwise three times. This act is done at every T-junction and crossroad. (Rotating the effigies is intended to bewilder the evil spirits so that they go away and cease harming human beings).

Tourists and visitors are welcome to watch the parades, take pictures and witness this unique spectacle. Some of these ogoh-ogohs are actually burnt after the parade as a symbol of self purification. A unique spectacle!

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Kuningan Day Holiday

Kuningan Day

Kuningan Day is 10 days after Galungan.  You may notice businesses closed as Balinese Hindus’ return to their home to celebrate with their families. They participate in ritual prayers where they celebrate the return of their spiritual ancestors to heaven and express gratitude to the Gods.

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Kuningan comes from the word “kuning” meaning yellow. The celebration of Kuningan is similar to Galungan, however yellow is used as an offering instead of white.

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The bamboo poles known as Penjors, previously erected at the entrance to businesses and houses is redecorated substituting the colours of white with yellow. This symbolises prosperity.

Bali June 2014 with Cindie 591

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The Galungan Holiday

Galungan is one of the most important recurring Hindu celebrations of the religious calendar when the creator of the universe and the spirits of ancestors are honored. This is when the spirits of deceased relatives return to visit their former homes for 10 days until another Hindu celebration, know as Kuningan. Current inhabitants have a responsibility to be hospitable through prayers and offerings.

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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.

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Local Balinese Hindus can be seen walking and driving to temples wearing their ceremony best, often carrying offerings of food and flowers.

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INDUL FITRI or LEBARAN

This is the end of the month of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting and is one of the most significant Muslim festivals in the Islamic Calendar. Mass prayers are held in mosques and also in large open areas around the country.

The people of Indonesia celebrate Indul Fitri with great enthusiasm and peace. Muslim people wear new clothes and distribute sweets. During this time, markets through Indonesia are decorated and people enjoy shopping.

Banks, private offices and government centres are closed for almost one week in Indonesia. (Major Money Changers will remain open – but rates will not be as competitive).

Indonesian Muslims are expected to celebrate the end of Ramadan by travelling to be with their families. This custom is locally referred to as mudik, or homebound travel.

How this is expected to impact Bali:

  • Traffic during the Idul Fitri exodus will increase considerably
  • The heavy traffic is likely to lead to a higher number of accidents
  • Shops may be busy
  • Offices and Banks will be closed

bali muslims queue to board a ship image reuters

image:  reuters 2012. (Hundreds of vehicles queue to board a ship. Muslims across Indonesia travel from major cities to their hometowns to celebrate Indul Fitri festival).

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Waisak Day – The Buddha’s Birthday…

Buddha in the pond of Semadhi in Pemuteran

Waisak Day is a holiday observed by Buddhists in Bali, it is also a national holiday in Indonesia. The exact date of Waisak varies according to the various types of calendars. In the Gregorian calendar, it usually falls in April or May. This year, Waisak will be on 15th May 2014, the theme is to carry the spirit of self-contemplation and living in harmony.

Waisak honours three important events: the birth, life and teaching of Siddhartha Gautama.  Early Buddhist scriptures describe that the Buddha was born enlightened and died on the full moon day of the fourth lunar month, Vesakha.

On Waisak day, Buddhists assemble in various Buddhist temples for a ritual. The ritual comprises of collecting water from a holy spring, lighting a torch from the eternal flame, food donation for Buddhist monks and meditation under the full moon.

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A Day of Silence: Nyepi

Nyepi is a traditional “Day of Silence.”  It marks the Balinese New Year in the Hindu calendar. This is the Hindu New Year and like the christian Easter, the date changes annually – though it usually falls during March and April. The fundamental nature of Nyepi is to rid the Island of evil spirits, and renew both the environment and your individual philosophy.

On the eve of Nyepi, spectacular ceremonies, parades of great bamboo monsters and fireworks occur.   It is a wonderful celebration!

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The following day is Nyepi and is a day of silence and seclusion.  It is a time for self-reflection.

From 6am until 6am the following day, the island simply stops.  Lights must be kept low; no-one works so businesses are closed; there is no entertainment; no travelling; and even lovemaking is not supposed to occur.  The belief is that by doing this, the Gods will be fooled into believing the island is uninhabited and no evil spirits exist. Everything can then start afresh.

Out of respect , non-Hindu residents also observe this day of silence

Tourists too are not exempt.  Major hotels generally permit their guests use of their various facilities with the understanding that guests will not venture outside the property.   Even the staff will have to sleep over at the hotel that evening.

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A quiet peace reigns over Bali where the usually busy streets are empty, all is quiet and there are few signs of activity – even in homes.

As a tourist, Nyepi can be a wonderfully cathartic, therapeutic experience whereby you are forced to slow down.

NOTE:  Since the date of Nyepi is not set until late in the year prior, flights and accommodation may already be booked for travellers.  The airport is closed for the full 24hr period of Nyepi however!  This may necessitate some changes to existing bookings.

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Balinese Offerings to the Gods…

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Daily offerings to God, also known as canang sari or blessings, are a fundamental part of every day life for the Balinese.  Canang Sari are usually made every morning.

Sukawati markets

The Hindu Balinese believe offerings appease the spirits and brings prosperity and good health to the family. It is a duty and an honour at the same time.

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The placing of offerings can be seen daily on beaches, footpaths, at temple steps and shrines.  It is a daily ritual of giving back what has been given to you by the Gods. It is believed to be a sharing based on gratitude for the privilege of existence.

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When Hindus devote their offerings and prayers, it is believed God’s universe is recharged and continues its existence unaffected. To not observe this responsibility is to bring disturbance upon the Balinese and their world.

Offerings are made on a daily basis crafted from the natural kaleidoscope of beauty found in Bali’s forests, farms and general vegetation.

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