Bali is often referred to as the “island of the gods” or “island of a thousand temples.” Not for no reason, because religion and tradition are of great importance among the inhabitants of Bali. More than 90 percent of the population lives according to the Hindu religion or life philosophy that affects almost every area of life. Culture, festivals, and rituals play a major role in everyday life and are cultivated there very much.
The Balinese believe that their island is inhabited by the spirits of their deceased, by gods and demons. The ancestors are honored especially intensively because the belief states that these influence the destiny. Religion assumes that all visible material is always accompanied by a spiritual and invisible world. The god Sang Hyang Widhi is the highest being in Bali Hinduism, which stands above the universe. In short, everything is God. God, however, is not seen as a divinity but is a union of several divine powers. Daily sacrifices are an expression of respect and recognition. These sacrifices should also suit gods favorably and soothe demons. They consist mostly of small artfully woven leaves with different contents like rice and flowers. The production of these sacrifices also makes a significant contribution to the employment of the population.
The most important festivals in Bali
Apart from a few state holidays, almost all the festivals in Bali have a religious background. Rarely a day goes by, where a temple festival “Odalan” is not celebrated anywhere on the island. Odalan is the anniversary of the inauguration of a temple and is celebrated every 210 days (a Bali year). Temple fortresses are a holy occasion for Hindus. Normally the temples are not adorned, but on this day the whole village comes to life. Streets and temples are decorated with colorful flowers. The arrival of the gods is celebrated with solemn processions of music, dances and artistic sacrifices.
The largest and most important festivals in Bali are Galung, Kuningan, and Nyepi. Galtung is the most elaborate temple festival. With it, the creation of the world is celebrated and also takes place every 210 days. The Balinese believe that the world was created by the supreme god Sang Hyang Widhi. At Galung he visits the temples of Bali with his ancestors and other goddesses and returns to heaven after ten days of Kuningan. Already months before this the women begin with the preparations. Streets, houses, and temples are adorned, sacrifices are prepared and the inhabitants slip into their traditional costumes.
Nyepi is the Balinese New Year festival and falls on the spring equinoxes and is also called “Day of Silence.” On this day, strict rules apply: People must not leave their houses (this also applies to tourists), they must not work, and no fire and light should be ignited. The parades, arranged on the eve, with gigantic and colorful Ogoh-Ogoh figures are supposed to expel the demons and the evil of the world. At the end of the meeting, the Ogoh-Ogohs are burnt and the 24-hour exit barrier begins.
Traditional music in Bali
All festivals, ceremonies, and parades are accompanied by music and dances. Gamelan is the traditional music and is played in small and large groups or by an orchestra, but not according to notes, but improvised. Instruments such as drums, flutes or xylophones produce unique sounds. Music is danced naturally, and almost all dances have a religious background. Trancetinas, such as the Kecak, put the dancers in a twilight state with a certain breathing technique. The barong is a dance drama, in which the balance between good and evil is established. The Legong may only be danced by girls who are pure. With this dance, the gods are to be revered and rejoiced. The girls are painted and adorned, so they look like princesses.
Now you know all the information about the Island of Gods!! Take your backpack and make an awesome travel experience!!!
Photo by Thomas Depenbusch