Located in the Indonesian archipelago with more than 17,000 islands, Bali is unique as most of its inhabitants are Hindu and many of the cultures and traditions are an amalgamation of Hinduism and the Indonesian way of life. This fascinating culture and traditions make Bali an interesting place to visit, besides its idyllic beaches, dreamy cafes and lush greeneries.

This part of Bali was also heavily featured in the book and subsequent movie, Eat Pray Love, and continues to attract those who are fascinated by its authenticity. Much of these cultures and traditions manifest themselves in the many festivals that are celebrated by the Balinese. Here is a guide on festivals in Bali so you can partake in some of them in your next trip here:

Bali Festivals: What and When

Ceremonies in Bali are an almost-everyday occurrence, as the people celebrate important events such as natural phenomena like the full moon, or important milestones like puberty, marriage and death. You may find hundreds and even thousands at some of these ceremonies and festivals, but here are some of the important ones:

Nyepi: the Balinese New Year which takes place in March or April according to the Balinese calendar. This day is special as it is also known as the Day of Silence, and the entire island observes complete silence for the whole day. The idea of Nyepi is to encourage purification and meditation by refocusing the minds and to rid the island of demons by tricking them into thinking that the island is deserted.

More than just a festival, Nyepi is taken very seriously and even flights in and out of the airport are halted. Hotels are also asked to cover their windows and all shops will be closed that day. There will be no vehicles on the road and no lights or candles will be lit as well.

It is quite special to experience Nyepi in Bali, so if you happen to be there do take part in observing this silence and make sure you empty your plans for the day!

Ogoh-Ogoh: This is the day before Nyepi, which is also like the Balinese New Year’s Eve. It’s a massive celebration that will take place throughout the entire island and there will be a lot of dance, drums, music and parades. There will be giant structures of demons, called Ogoh-Ogoh, that are made of bamboo and paper and will be paraded before being burned at the end of the night. This signifies the chasing away of demons so that the year starts afresh the next day!

Galungan: This is another very important festival in Bali to celebrate the creation of the universe and the victory of good over evil. The Balinese Hindus believe that on this 10-day period, the spirits of their ancestors will visit them and hence they will be welcoming these spirits with prayers and offerings.

Galungan is celebrated over three days, in which women will decorate and clean temples while men make penjors (decorative bamboo poles with offerings) which will adorn the streets of Bali. The next day, Balinese will head to the temples for prayers and on the final day, there will be no work as people will be visiting their friends and relatives.

Odalan: This celebration takes place in all the temples in Bali and celebrates the arrival of the gods on the anniversary of the temple. It occurs every 210 days since the temple was established, which means every temple will have a different Odalan date. On this day, women bring offerings to the temple and decorate it with flowers. There will be prayers and blessed rice is distributed to all devotees who will then apply them to their forehead, temples and throat.

There are over 20,000 temples in Bali so if you do get a chance, try to catch this celebration to really get a glimpse of the richness of Balinese traditions!

What to Expect During Festivals

Festivals in Bali are important celebrations of the religion, cultures and traditions of the people here and are taken very seriously. Some of them are spiritual in nature, while many are also fun, exciting and celebrate the fullness of life. As a visitor, it is a great privilege to partake in a Balinese festival so do take the opportunity to do so if you can!

However, do ensure that respectful decorum is also practised when taking part in these festivals. For example, observe silence on Nyepi Day as much as you can, and be respectful when entering temples on the other celebration days. The Balinese love it when visitors want to participate in their millenia-old traditions but make sure you don’t mock, complain or behave in a disrespectful manner while doing so.

Above it all, enjoy yourself and take this time to understand a different culture and the complexities of their traditions!

Guests at Club Med Bali would be pleased to know that we offer many activities and excursions if you’d like to get to know the Balinese culture and traditions better. Whether it’s watching a dance performance, joining our cooking lessons or taking part in an excursion to a temple, we have just the right activity for you. Book a package with us today for an all-inclusive stay!