Unique Bali ceremonies, festivals, rituals – my bucketlist for 2017

I believe you have seen how picturesque Bali island is? But only through Bali beaches, landscapes, nature spots you won’t see all the beauty of this island. A little knowledge and participation in Bali ceremonies, festivals (cultural or religious) can give more ineffable memories for your holidays in Bali. Like Indian writer Siddharth Katragadda said “The greatness of a culture can be found in its festivals”.

The best if you could attend any of Balinese family celebrations like Gedong-gedongan (ceremony in the 8th month of pregnancy), Menek kelih (puberty), teenagers transition to the adult’s world (tooth filling), wedding and etc. But if you will be in Bali island only for short period – I believe it’s not so easy to become close friends with local people and be invited to such sacred family ceremonies.

Cultural Bali festival

But in Bali there are many public celebrations that you can attend. Almost every month you can enter different Bali ceremonies, festivals. For example, well-known monsters parade Ogoh-Ogoh, Nyepi (silent day – Bali’s Lunar New Year), Galungan (Balinese Hindus commemorate the legendary battle of good versus evil), art or villages festivals, temples anniversaries and etc. (check 2017 calendar for most famous Bali ceremonies and celebrations).

During my 1st year of living in Bali I have participated in above-mentioned (and others) Bali ceremonies, rituals, so this year I’m more interested to attend unique, unusual, less known among travelers Bali ceremonies. Maybe you will be interested to take a part in any of these Bali ceremonies, during your trip in Bali?

Bali ceremonies, festivals, rituals – my bucketlist for 2017

MARCH

Kissing ceremony that helps to find beloved – “Omed-Omedan”

I don’t know whether believe the legend, but around 100 year ago king Puri Oka was sick. Outside his place the youngsters were playing game Omed Omed (boys pulled random boy to the side, girls pulled random girl to the side too). When pulled boy and girl were close to each other, by accident – they kissed. And this event caused many noise from youngsters. King was angry and get outside to stop this noisy game. But after he get out he didn’t feel ill anymore. After such “magic” the King announced that this Omed Omed (that literally means “pull-pull”) should be held each year after Nyepi celebration (Balinese New Year).

Nowadays in this ceremony can participate only unmarried Sesetan village youth (17-30 years old). People say, that through this ceremony many couples met and build families. As well such ritual brings good luck and prosperity to those who are taking part in it. Not enough that participants may not know each other and will kiss strangers, village priests throw water over participants to douse the flames of passion. Maybe this ceremony not so special but for sure can give good vibes. More about this Bali festival.

Bali kissing ceremony
Photo boombastis.com
  • Place: Banjar Kaja Sesetan in Denpasar, Bali
  • Time: 29th of March, 2017. Festival starts in the morning.
  • Best place to stay near Denpasar would be Sanur area (I doubt you would really enjoy staying in capital of Bali, during your holidays). I have stayed in Sanur in these places:
  • Sudamala Suites & Villas – I love this place. It’s like small oasis near main Sanur area. So many unique details inside. Inspiring, peaceful, spacious surrounding, delicious food and very friendly stuff.
  • Puri Santrian – quite big hotel but has straight access to the beach. You can choose from many different types of rooms. I enjoy there buffet type breakfast with big assortment, live Gamelan music, green surrounding and helpful stuff. 

As well can be an option to stay in Kuta (from ceremony place the distance almost the same to go to Sanur or Kuta). You can check options in Airbnb too: Kuta or Sanur. And if you are new in Airbnb you can get FREE credits for first your booking.

APRIL

Full moon ceremony to ask God’s grace

“Purnama” the day of full moon is a special day for Balinese people. Every month on full moon extra offerings “sesajen” are made in family temples. As well such offerings taken to village temple. Depending on the full moon time usually many temples will have special event for villagers, like dancing, shadow puppet theater wayang, other performances. Such full moon ceremony takes all day long activities from preparation offering, cooking, going to the temples and etc. Every 10th full moon (called “Purnama Kadas”) even more special. Unique rituals you can see not only in the main island temples but as well in smaller ones. For example on this special day, mother temple, Besakih, holds a special ceremony known as “Betara Turun Kabeh”, inviting the gods and deified ancestors for their blessings. More about this ceremony from fellow travel blogger you can find here.

Bali ceremonies - full moon
Photo fivelements.org
  • Time: 11th of April, 2017. All day long.
  • Place: island-wide in major temples.
  • Note: during such ceremonies the temples are crowded of prayers.
  • Best place to stay in Bali during this ceremony is Ubud area. Because you can easily reach main temples like Besakih, Tirta Empul, Pura Goa Lawah and others. You can check and Airbnb listing. I have stayed in Ubud in these places:
  • Tjampuhan Ubud & Spa – cozy, beautiful place with a view to a temple and just a couple minute walk from Campuhan Ridge Walk, not far from the center. Breakfast was very delicious.
  • Manyi Village Ubud – place surrounded by rice paddies but further from the Ubud center (they have shuttle bus). It’s not big place, quite, intimate. From the balcony you can see the sunrise, from bathroom window paddies. Breakfast buffet type with several options.
  • Ubud Wana Resort – city type hotel, not too big, with spacious rooms, couple swimming pools, not far from Ubud Monkey forest. Stuff very flexible and helpful. Breakfast buffet type with several options.
  • Sanggingan Villa and Permana Cottages – Ubud – both places are not too far from Ubud center. Rooms are spacious but interior of Bali in 80’s (some rooms only with fan, some rooms needs improvement). Very simple served breakfast.

Planing trip to Bali

Self-stabbing ritual that brings people closer to God – “Ngerebong”

This ritual, more than 100 years old, for sure not for everyone. I have seen some trance rituals in Java island, so I’m a bit curious to see it in Bali too. Balinese believe that stabbing themselves in the neck and chest with dagger called “keris” without drawing a drop of blood (can you imagine that it’s possible?) helps to achieve harmony between humans, nature and God. The ritual not only brings villagers closer to God, it also helps give them a sense of community. All preparation, ceremonies and ritual itself takes all day long. Find out more about this Balinese ritual or take a look to this video.

Bali ceremonies - ritual Ngerebong
Photo tripcanvas.com
  • Place: Petilan Pengerebongan temple, Kesiman, Denpasar, Bali
  • Time: Every 210 days (on the eight day after Kuningan), in April and November, 2017.
  • Best place to stay near Denpasar would be Sanur area (to stay in capital of island not the best choice). I have stayed in couple hotels in Sanur – you can check above my experience there.

Kid’s transition to the adult’s world sacred ceremony – “Usaba Dangsil”

When I saw girl’s pictures from Bungaya village (one of the oldest village in Bali) during Usaba Dangsil ceremony – I understood that it is something that I haven’t seen yet in Bali. It’s not only about different local people ritual clothing but as well about activities they do for this ceremony. Boys and girls (hundreds of them) have to follow many rituals, which shows that they became grownups. Beside all rituals are build 7 giant pillars (which symbolize welfare and protection) and with all villagers help transported to the certain place. This unique main ritual held only every 12-14 years! Last time it was in August, 2016. But until the end of April, 2017 you can still see special performances. You can read more about this ceremony here and watch a short video from event in 2016.

Bali ceremonies - Usaba Dangsil
Photo lifeinbigtent.com
  • Place: Bungaya village in Karangasem, Bali
  • Time: Every 12-14 years. Until the end of April, 2017, every full and dark moon from 10 am you can see special performances.
  • Note: if you want to visit this event, you should follow some rules.
  • Best hotels in Bali, Karangasem area you can find here or check Airbnb places. I have stayed in Rama Candidasa Resort & Spa. Honestly, it is one of my favorite places to stay in Bali – hotel is in front of the sea (even if it’s not possible to swim there), interior nicely mixed between Balinese and modern style, spacious and green surrounding, breakfast is buffet type with big assortment and stuff very helpful.
MAY

Sacred ceremony to neutralize 288 evil spirits – “Ngerebeg”

Locals believes that at least 288 different kind of demons lives along Tegelalang’s river. To neutralize these spirits Balinese from Tegalalang village every 6 months organize a parade that is conjunction with Duur Bingin temple anniversary. It’s requires villagers dress up like a demons. This traditional ceremony, sacred Grebeg ritual, in Tegalalang village known from 13th century.

There are no gender restriction but mainly in such parade participate hundreds of 3-15 years old boys (as well teenagers). As well they prepare 288 meal offerings at any major religion festival to appease these spirits. This ritual purify the village through noisy parade of scary-looking kids (reminds a bit Ogoh Ogoh before Nyepy day). People believe that supernatural being will be pacified so they won’t disturb temple ceremony. In the morning kids deliver offerings and in the evening – they participate in parade. I think it’s quite fun to watch this parade, see kids reativity. More about this Bali ceremony here.

  • Place: Duur Bingin temple, Tegalalang village, Gyanair, Bali
  • Time: 10th of May, 2017. From ~11 am and lasts ~3 hours.
  • Best Bali hotels to stay around Tegalalang. Or you can stay in Ubud. My experiences staying in Ubud you can check above.
JUNE – JULY

Blood offering ritual to the Gods to appease the spirits – “Mekare-kare”

In ancient Balinese village Tenganan (where people still follows prie-Hindu culture and traditions) once a year, men participate in theatrical fight “Mekare kare” (as well known as “Perang Pandan”, “Pandan war” or “Megeret Pandan”). The aim of such battle is to draw blood, to spill a few drops on the bare earth to appease the spirits and keep them at peace. Other people say that this ceremony nowadays is about to impress the village’s unmarried women. In any case, this ritual quite interesting because man’s fights with sharp pandanus leaves, bamboo shield and accompanied by native gamelan music “Selonding” (playing only in this village). Each fight lasts only couple of minutes. Even if you won’t see a battle, during this event you will enjoy this Balinese ceremony because women will be dressed with traditional, only for this village common clothes, you will see traditional performances and hear Selonding music. It’s a time when you can be a witness of the most beautiful village. More about this ritual you can read here and watch video.

Balinese ceremony - Mekare kare
Photo baliplius.com
  • Place: Tenganan Pegringsingan and Tenganan Dauh Tukad villages in Karangasem, Bali
  • Time: 2-4 times during June – July. Starts ~2 pm.
  • Best Bali accommodation in Karangasem area you can find here. I have stayed in Rama Candidasa Resort & Spa. Honestly, it is one of my favorite places to stay in Bali – hotel is in front of the sea (even if it’s not possible to swim there), interior nicely mixed between Balinese and modern style, spacious and green surrounding, breakfast is buffet type with big assortment and stuff very helpful.
JULY – NOVEMBER

Harvest celebration – “Makepung” water buffalo’s races

Agrarian scenes is part of Balinese daily life. And to uphold agriculture traditions each year in some parts of island is organized unique festival – buffaloes race. It‘s colorful agriculture spectacle-race (known from ~1930) which symbolize mutual help of farmers carrying their harvest using carriage that pull by two buffaloes. Balinese participate in such race for honor, pride and trophy. Race tradition original came from Madura island in Indonesia. Such event was so inspiring that in 1984 was created special traditional dance “Makepung”. This dance is performed by 7 to 9 male, female and depicts riders, the buffaloes themselves. One of the unique features of the dance is that it is accompanied by the Jegog bamboo orchestra, which is also typical of the regency. Find out more about this race and you can check this video.

Bali festival - harvest celebration
Photo duniart.com
  • Place: Kaliakah village, Perancak (close to Negara) in Jembrana, Bali
  • Time: July – November. Every Sunday from 7-8 till ~9-10 am.
  • Best hotels in Bali Jembrana area you can see here or Negara here. But maybe you can find something suitable in Airbnb?
ALL YEAR LONG

Temple ceremonies – temple “birthday”

Every temple and shrine in Bali (there are more than ~4539 temples) has annual ceremony called “Odalan”. The word “Odalan” is believed to have come from the root word “Wedal” which means “birth”. This is usually the day when the temple buildings are blessed for the first time, or the day where Balinese Hindus commences to bring offerings and pray in the temple. Temple festival may come once in 210 days following the “Wuku” Balinese calendar (twice in a Gregorian calendar), thus a semi-annual celebration, or may be an annual ceremony, if villagers follow the lunar calendar. Bali ceremonies for temples are very colorful, people are making special decoration, offerings as well you can see exclusive performances.

Since every village has at least three major temples (and often many more than that), there is always some kind of community religious activity going on. So I believe you could join any such event during your holidays in Bali. Check calendar of Bali ceremonies in temples.

Bali festivals - temple ceremony
Photo duniart.com

Notice that during temple ceremony, not allow:
Enter such festival if you have open wound, bring food inside, if you mentally or physically ill, being in a state of mourning (for the Balinese this lasts 42 days or one month + 7 days of Balinese calendar), and having given birth within the past 42 days.

  • Time: every 210 days. Temple ceremony usually lasts for 1-3 days, but larger ones (which occur every 5, 10, 30 or 100 years) can last for 7-11 days or longer.
  • Place: all around island
  • Best place to stay in Bali. I suggest to check and Airbnb too. If you never registered before, you can get FREE credits for your first stay.

As well maybe you can be interested to see cock fights? Legal fights you can see usually during temple ceremonies almost all around island but many people organize it illegally too. I have seen such fights in Karangasem area, it’s quite common there but it’s hard to know from before when it will be held.

Furthermore I participated in Balinese sacred purification ritual which aimed to purify a human body and soul in order to prevent havoc, bad luck and sickness (also achieve self-purification). If you would be interested to experience it too, before going to any water temple talk with local people who will explain the meaning, sequence and etc. The main thing – do it not for entertainment but with understanding why you do it and how to do it right.

I belive you don’t want to become annoying tourist. Some tips for visiting Bali ceremonies, festivals, rituals (especially religious):

  • Always wear sarong and sash (you can bring your own or rent in temple).
  • Don’t wear bikini, too transparent clothes.
  • Never sit higher that the priest, on the offerings.
  • Don’t walk in front of people when they are praying or further than the prayers are.
  • Women are not allowed to enter temples during menstruations.
  • Don’t use flash or point camera at the priest’s face.
  • Be polite if making pictures of people – don’t disturb them if they are preparing for ceremony, praying. Would be nice if you ask their permission to take photos of them.

Moreover you should know that during main religious, national celebrations can be a bit difficult to travel in Bali or other Indonesian island like people will have holidays. You can check Indonesian holidays calendar of yearly events to plan your trip in the right time.

It’s only Bali celebrations that I want to visit this year (those that I didn’t mention here I already visited or will leave for next year too). Indonesia has more than 17 000 islands, each of them has different their own celebrations. So you can imagine that in Indonesia you can feel like in never ending celebration place.

 

Bali events - Pinterest
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  • Which Bali ceremonies, festivals or rituals you would like to attend?
  • In which of these or other Bali ceremonies you already participated?
  • Do you have any similar to Bali ceremonies celebrations in your country?

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How to know if you stayed in Indonesia too long

Sometimes we feel that we stuck (at least I had such feeling ;)) – maybe in the same job position, in the same surrounding. All the time going to same places, eating same food, doing same things and etc. And we don’t realize when it becomes routine.

When we are traveling and stay in one place longer, we see how we start to adapt to surrounding, do things which locals do (even if in our country it wasn’t common) and somehow it’s starts to look like routine as well ;).

So what are the signs showing that you are staying in Indonesia too long?

And maybe it’s time to consider moving somewhere else or at least changing something?

  • You are driving motorbike like Indonesian: don’t show anymore turns; start to drive when traffic-light still red; not wearing helmet (at least for the short distance); on your motorbike take big amount of stuff (or big ones) or at least on motorbike already sit with 3 people; driving with slippers and dressed fully (even if outside so hot); when you are passenger, you don’t hold your hands in the back.
  • When you meet a person in a street or in front of his home – you don’t get out of motorbike, you just shout to that person what you want to say (usually even without turning off the engine).
  • You are crossing a busy street using your right arm to “stop” the traffic and go through.
  • You don’t searching ”clean” or “aesthetic” places to eat but eat in small street “warungs” where sanitary condition not the best.
  • Start to eat almost the same food – “nasi”, “sayur”, “ayam”, “tahu”,“tempe”, “nasi goreng”, “gado gado” and “soto”. As well can’t imagine food without “sambal”.
  • You wash your hands after finishing the meal instead of before.
  • You have your own rice cooker.
  • You sleep soundly through the first call of prayer at 4:30 am.
  • Indonesians no more asks pictures with you (they recognize by your behavior, attitude that you are staying already in Indonesia longer).
  • You start do things in Indonesian style (wearing sarong, eating with hands…)
  • When you meet foreigners you start to speak with them in bahasa Indonesia, at least use some Indonesian words in English sentences or in your native language sentences.
  • You start to use expression “yah” (“yes”) almost in every sentence (“Makasih, yah?” – “Thank you, yah”?).
  • You start to use question “apa” (“what”?) more often.
  • Start to be late to the meetings at least 30 min.-1 hour.
  • Even if it’s looks that you are doing something, most of the time you do nothing.
  • Start to be a bit lazy to travel, find new places for activities, eating.
  • You start to smoke or if you are smoker, start to smoke more.
  • When you have possibility – you move to a cheaper living place even if there condition a bit worse than in previous place.
  • In Indonesia nothing surprise you anymore.
  • Start to ask yourself maybe it’s time to go home (or at least somewhere else).

After almost 2 years of staying in Indonesia, I already have almost half of these signs. So it seems I need to “work” on it harder and stay here longer.



Booking.com

And here is Tomas (from Belgium) thoughts how to know if you live in Indonesia for too long:

  • at dinner, you automatically grab for a spoon first, then for a fork and you don’t even think about a knife.
  • upon hearing the words “sakitnya tuh di sini” (“feels hurt in here”), you pump your first against your chest.
  • you think car taxis are for pussies and you prefer an “ojek” (motorbike taxi) or at the very least a “becak” (bicycle taxi).
  • you feel deeply unnerved when you haven’t had rice for a day.
  • you hardly notice the “Hellooooo mister!”, “Bule! Bule!” or “Mau ke mana?” (“Where to go?”) anymore.
  • a stop at “Indomaret” is an integral part of your evening routine.
  • you think it’s outrageous to pay more than a euro for a haircut.
  • you sometimes involuntarily shout “Allah Ou Akbar” (“Allah the great”) or “LURUS! LURUS!” (“straight, straight”) in your sleep.
  • you feel more natural in a squatting position than on a toilet seat (but you still use toilet paper, because there are limits to your adaptability).
  • you think it’s perfectly fine to eat noodles for breakfast.
  • you wonder how the rest of the world survives without “Beng Beng”. Or “Es jeruk”. Or “Tempeh”, “Pop Mie”, “Roti bakar”. Or…
  • you can scoop up “sambal” with a spoon as if it were ice cream.
  • it upsets you if the gasoline price rises.
  • you don’t count sheep when you can’t sleep, you count geckos.
  • you’ve stopped using the letters ‘v’ and ‘f’ altogether and have replaced them with a ‘p’. You wonder how you’ll ever order a “kopi” in Europe again without being ridiculed.
  • you can only vaguely recall the taste of cheese and you don’t even remember that there is such a thing as wine.
  • you think it’s perfectly fine to put cheese on top of milk shakes, pancakes and fruit salads.
  • you know that the last two points are not contradictory.
  • you think it’s perfectly fine to drink from a plastic bag.
  • you can easily distinguish between the different rings and tic-tocs from the passing street sellers and know perfectly well which ones sell “bakso”, “siomay”, ice cream or bread.
  • upon seeing a white face, you have to refrain yourself from shouting “BULE!!” out loud.
When you living in Indonesia too long
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  • Which signs show you that you stay in Indonesia already too long?
  • Do you think you could stay in Indonesia longer than only couple of months?
  • If you lived abroad for a while, which signs there can show that you already staying in that country too long?

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Wearing tube sarong

Before knowing how to wrap, keep it on tube sarong (or “sarung” in Indonesian language) I think it’s good to know what it is :).

“Sarong” (means “scabbard” in Indonesian) is a large tube or length of fabric. Tube sarong often wrapped around the waist and worn mostly by men (sometimes and women) throughout much of South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Arabian Peninsula, the Horn of Africa, and on many Pacific islands. The fabric most often has woven plaid or checkered patterns, or may be brightly colored by means of batik or ikat dyeing. Many modern sarongs have printed designs, often depicting animals or plants.
Sarong denotes the lower garment worn by the Indonesian men. This consists of length of fabric about a yard (0.91 m) wide and two-and-a-half yards (2.3 m) long. In the center of this sheet, across the narrower width, a panel of contrasting color or pattern about one foot wide is woven or dyed into the fabric, which is known as the “kepala” (or “head”) of the sarong. This sheet is stitched at the narrower edges to form a tube.

So some practical information:

How men wearing tube sarong

In Java, most people now wear Western clothing. Traditional tube sarong is worn for ceremonies, for Friday prayers, and in its casual form, to relax at home. For casual and Friday wear the soft cotton tubular sarong is very cool and comfortable. Men wear them in plaids. The central Javanese courts of Solo and Yogyakarta are famed for their intricate batik “kain panjang” in fine cotton, with tiny pleats created with the loose front end piece of the cloth falling straight in front. Men wear tube sarong with a short jacket, often with gold trim and buttons.

It is common for the sarong to slip or loosen over time. When this happens, just open it up and refold/re-tighten it again.

How women wearing tube sarong

In Javanese culture, the wearing of batik tube sarong is not restricted to women on formal occasions such as weddings, common wear with a “kebaya” blouse. The style of the “kebaya” varies – there are gauze-fine ones with beautiful embroidery, or heavier ones with lacy cutouts. Older “kebaya” have no buttons; they were held closed by ornate gold or silver pins.
Women slipped into, pulled up to the waist or underarm, depending on whether one wants a skirt or the strapless look, and the top is carefully folded to cinch the sarong tightly around the body, then rolled down to secure. Traditionally these were worn as a strapless dress, with a “selendang”, or shoulder cloth, for formal occasions, or as a skirt, worn with or without a blouse. Today in some remote villages it’s still possible to find women pounding rice with only an old sarong tied around their waists, but they now usually pull the sarong up when they see foreigners. Formal dress today consists of a beautifully patterned sarong, worn with a fine blouse and “selendang”. Every day wear is often an old sarong with soft floral patterns and T-shirt.
Tubular sarongs are usually worn by older women; younger women prefer the more flattering fit of the tightly wrapped two or two-and-a-half meter “kain panjang” (literally “long cloth”).

If you want to wear tube sarong you should do the same like it’s written above (how to wear tube sarong for men). I wear at home my tube sarong in original way, shorter when it’s hot outside and like dress (very comfortable especially after the shower :)).

How to use tube sarong for other purpose

Indonesian man using tube sarong not only by original purpose but for other things as well. You can try it too, no matter if you are man or women ;).

After the trip to Sulawesi island, our guide showed other ways how people there use tube sarong for other purpose.

How to use tube sarong - pinterest
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  • Have you tried to use tube sarong? It was comfortable for you?
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  • Have you tried any other local clothes during your trips?

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Information used from Javanese people sharing and internet sources. Illustrations made by Hendra Arkan

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