Bali Festivals: Nyepi, Arts, Spirit and More

Bali is the top travel place in Indonesia for many reasons from being naturally beautiful with rice terraces and limestones to arts and culture of dance, music, yoga and of course festivals.

As religion and spirituality are important to the Balinese everyday life, there are many ceremonies and festivals being practice. Most festivals here are of Balinese Hindu origin though there are a few based on the Muslim faith. Both the Hindu and the Muslim of Bali are respectful of each other’s faith and traditions that are practised based on religions.

Many travelers come to Bali to join in their unique festivals that runs throughout the year, which is highly spirited and full of activities.

Bali Nyepi Day Festival, Indonesia

Bali Nyepi Day Festival, Indonesia

Bali’s Nyepi Day

Probably the biggest festival for the Balinese Hindu, Nyepi Day, also known as day of silence, is celebrated every year as the Hindu New Year (Saka new year). The date changes according to Balinese calendar every year but would usually fall between March and April.

On the days leading up to Nyepi (3 days before) is called the Melasti (or Mekiyis or Melis) where you will see Bali people all scrubbing clean the statues of Gods, pray, hold ceremonies and perform other various rituals. One day before Nyepi is called Tawur Kesanga, and this is when the villagers will hold exorcism ceremony at the main village by using Ogoh-ogoh (monsters made of bamboo) in a parade that includes making loud noises, burning torches and set fire to the Ogoh-ogoh to get rid of evil spirits from our lives.

Then on Nyepi day itself, almost everything will be closed in Bali as it is a day of fasting and meditation. On this day, everything is cleaned and will start anew. In essence, Nyepi is to rid the island of all evil spirits and to renew the environment and also own personal thinking. Travelers will also be asked to keep as quiet as possible.

Travel tips: On this day have a good book to tuck in or just watch some DVD if your hotel provides it. Remember to stock up on food too. At night, you can take the opportunity to do some stargazing as the place will be dark and quiet. Also, note that the airport will be closed on Nyepi day.

Bali Arts Festival, Indonesia

Bali Arts Festival, Indonesia

Bali Arts Festival

Whole Bali will come together in Denpasar to showcase their love for arts in terms of music, dance and beauty. There will be performances from all remote corners of Indonesia, almost forgotten ritual and village dances, food and offerings, classical palace dance and even contemporary dances from the schools of Denpasar. People from far and wide will travel to Bali and visit Denpasar every year during this time to catch the Bali Arts Festival. It is consists of a full month of daily cultural performances, handicraft exhibitions and much more arts-related activities. Read more about Bali Arts Festival in Denpasar.

Bali Spirit Festival

The Bali Spirit Festival, initiated six years ago, is a gathering of world-renowned musicians, yogis and dancers from around the world for a celebration. Weeks before the day, Ubud will be filled with travelers who are gathering here for this inaugural event. There will be workshops, fair and many yoga activities. At the same time, this festival aims to raise money as part of the annual Karma outreach initiative, which includes funding for children programs, education, health and environment.

The goal of Bali Spirit Festival is to awaken and nourish each individual’s potential towards a positive change from within to without which is their own homes, communities and around the world. Get more information at http://www.balispiritfestival.com/.

Ubud Writers Festival, Bali, Indonesia

Ubud Writers Festival, Bali, Indonesia

Ubud Writers Festival

This is a major annual event for the non-profit foundation of Yayasan Mudra Swari Saraswati. It is initially conceived by Jane Deneefe, co-founder of the foundation as a healing project in response to Bali first bombing. This festival’s mission is simply to create a literary event that encourages free speech among people from all walks of life, race and gender to celebrate the beauty of the written words. Therefore, the festival facilitates sharing of stories on a world stage arena by bringing Indonesians and international writers together while expanding literature across cultures. For more information, check out http://www.ubudwritersfestival.com/.

Bali Kite Festival, Indonesia

Bali Kite Festival, Indonesia

Bali Kite Festival

This annual event is held every July in Padang Galak Area, Sanur Beach, Bali. People from Denpasar villages will make their traditional giant kites and fly them in a competition. This event is a religious festival as it is intended to send a message to the Hindu Gods to give them abundant crops and harvests. A team will normally consist of 70-80 people, and each team will have a Gamelan band, flag bearers and kite flyers. Traditional kites take hold in forms of nature like fish, bird or leaves.

-> Find the best Bali hotel deals at Booking.com *

The teams consist of about 70 to 80 people, each team with its Gamelan band, flag bearers and flyers. There is also competition for a new kite creation that includes representation of the Hindu Gods. Kites are judged base on various points and it can be very competitive among villages. This festival is an atmospheric carnival with music, food and gamelan music all around.

Galungan and Kuningan Festival in Bali

Galungan Festival, Bali, Indonesia

Galungan Festival, Bali, Indonesia

Galungan is one of the important Hindu festival in Bali. This is the time when the people pay respect to their ancestors with prayers and offerings. Most Balinese will try to make their way back to the family place to visit their ancestral home and graves. Also, they will have a visit to the temple to make offerings. They will also visit homes of other families who may have helped their family in any way. The day after, they will visit their friends in their best attire and enjoy festive spirits in the streets. Galungan is also to celebrate the victory of good over evil.

Kuningan marks the last day of the 10 days Galungan period. On this day, it will be spent with family in prayer and offering to the ancestors’ return to heaven. It is usually done in the privacy of the family home and temple. After Kuningan day, Balinese people will go out and have fun with their friends again.

Ramadan

On this day the Muslim population of Bali will observe this religious duty of fasting. It occurs every year and base on the Islamic Calendar. During this month, the Muslim will not have anything passing their lips from sunrise to sunset, including eating, drinking or smoking. The importance of this event is for prayers, fasting, charity and self accountability.

Bali cremation ceremonies in Indonesia

Bali cremation ceremonies in Indonesia

Other important festivals in Bali

Saraswati – for the Goddess of Wisdom, Art and Literature.
Banyu Pinaruh – day after Saraswati where Balinese go down to beaches/rivers to clean themselves and pray for wisdom
Tumpek Landep – to bless all metal creations like tools, kitchen utensils and vehicles
Tumpek Uduh – for the God of all food, plants & vegetation
Tumpek Kadang/Uye – day to worship the God of cattle & livestock
Tumpek Krulut – to celebrate arts
Tumpek Wayang – ceremony with leather puppets
Siwaratri – this is time where Balinese do not sleep for a night to contemplate and purify themselves

Tanah Lot Temple ceremony in Bali, Indonesia

Tanah Lot Temple ceremony in Bali, Indonesia

Besides all the festivals named above, there are numerous other festivals, celebrations and ceremonies in Bali. This is because Balinese is very much in touch with their spiritual side and they have ceremonies for almost everything from birth to adulthood, marriage and also death. There are also things related to religions and anniversaries. In short, come to Bali and you might just experience one of their festivals to join in their spirit for celebrations.

Photo credits from top: mattspong, Pandu Adnyana, Ubud Writers Festival, Dionisius Purba, Carl Ottersen, eGuide Travel and Ketut Suparta

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Pura Tanah Lot Temple, Bali

Bali Arts Festival in Denpasar, Bali

Bali Arts Festival, which is held from June to July every year, including this year 2018 Bali Arts Festival (June – July ), is inarguably one of the most famous festivals in Bali, Indonesia.

People from far and wide will travel to Bali and visit Denpasar every year during this time to catch the Bali Arts Festival. It is consists of a full month of daily cultural performances, handicraft exhibitions and many more arts-related activities.

About Bali Arts Festival

Baris Tumbak Dance at Bali Arts Festival, Indonesia

Baris Tumbak Dance at Bali Arts Festival, Indonesia

Here is where you see the whole of Bali come together in Denpasar to showcase their love for arts in terms of music, dance and beauty.

You will get to see performances from all remote corners of Indonesia, almost forgotten ritual and village dances, food and offerings, classical palace dance and even contemporary dances from the schools of Denpasar.

Sample of classical dances are legong, gambuh, kecak, barong, baris, mask dances and even contemporary dance choreography derived from old village dances and activities.

Opening Ceremony of Bali Arts Festival, Indonesia

Opening Ceremony of Bali Arts Festival, Indonesia

In history, the idea of Bali Arts Festival was conceptualize when the people of Bali want to promote cultural tourism. With the pride of the Balinese culture and the mantra of “tourism should not be for Bali instead Bali for tourism”, the culture and tourism organization further cultivate arts of Bali with opening of various schools of dance and arts.

Butha Kala at Bali Arts Festival, Indonesia

Butha Kala at Bali Arts Festival, Indonesia

Usually, a cultural parade will mark the opening of the annual festival in Bali and will take place in the Niti Mandala Park in Renon, Bali.

This important part of the festival will bring thousands of performers to showcase their music and dance talents along the street parade while clad in colourful traditional Balinese costumes.

After the parade, the official ceremony will be held in the evening on the open stage of Bali Arts Center.

Besides the cultural performances and dances, visitors will find that the area is lined with food stalls, exhibitions, competitions, fashion, flower arrangements and handicrafts. Visitors who travel to Bali will be able to sample Indonesian food and even do some shopping as hundreds of local artisans will participate in the festival.

Omkara at Bali Arts Festival, Indonesia

Omkara at Bali Arts Festival, Indonesia

Bali Arts Festival in Denpasar Bali

A huge stage will be set up in cultural complex of Bali’s capital city Denpasar, known as the Art centre. This place marks as the heart of the Bali Arts Festival. The Art centre is an epitome of classic local architectures with various designs and a lovely garden. It also houses museums of artifacts of Bali’s history. Those who travel to Bali are most welcomed to join in the festival in Bali if they are around here such as in Denpasar during the month-long Bali Arts Festival.

Kendang at Bali Arts Festival, Indonesia

Kendang at Bali Arts Festival, Indonesia

All photo credits to Pandu Adnyana

-> Find the best hotel deals in Denpasar at Booking.com *

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Waisak Day in Borobudur

If you’re planning to travel around Southeast Asia and a trip to Indonesia is on the cards, we recommend that you visit in early spring to witness how Buddhists from all across the country meet up to observe the holy Waisak Day festival.

It’s a day that promises vibrant colours, plenty of celebrations and many spectacular sights. Even if you are not a Buddhist, this day offers plenty of varied traditions that are marvelous to witness.

Waisak in Borobudur, Indonesia

Waisak in Borobudur, Indonesia

This article will explain the significance of the festival and explain how the day is celebrated in Indonesia, namely at the Borobudur temple – the largest Buddhist structure in the world.

About Waisak Day:

Waisak Day is a major event in the religious calendar for most Asian Buddhists, who celebrate the birth, enlightenment and death of Buddha on this day. Those who observe the religion use it as an opportunity to pay homage to The Enlightened One, seizing the opportunity to reiterate their devotion to principles of Buddhism: the determination to lead a noble life, the promise to develop their minds, the practice of love and kindness and the strive for peace and harmony with humanity.

Releasing lanterns at Waisak in Borobudur, Indonesia

Releasing lanterns at Waisak in Borobudur, Indonesia

This significant and traditional holy day is observed throughout Indonesia, and beyond too: other countries that celebrate this holiday include Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Singapore, Cambodia and Thailand.

As with many religious holidays or traditions observed around the world, the name of the day can vary from place to place. While known as Waisak Day in Indonesia, the holiday is more commonly known as “Vasak” Day elsewhere. In some areas, it is known as “Visakah Puja” which means “Buddha’s Day”, when translated from Sanskrit. Sometimes, the holiday is also referred to informally as “Buddha’s birthday” too.

Waisak is typically celebrated on the first full moon day in May, but this can also vary from country to country due to differences in how lunar calendars are interpreted. Some cultures will stretch celebrations across several days.

How Waisak Day is celebrated:

How the festival is celebrated can also vary depending on location as each country has its down set of traditions. Typically, devout Buddhists will meet at temples and attend a ceremony before dawn, where they will hoist the iconic Buddhist flag and sing hymns. Buddhists might bring bright floral offerings to the ceremony as flowers are a symbol of that even something so beautiful can wither and die, and a reminder that all life is subject to decay. Some Buddhists might choose to eat only vegetarian food during this holy day too.

Monks at Waisak in Borobudur, Indonesia

Monks at Waisak in Borobudur, Indonesia

Many Buddhists will release hundreds of small animals into the wild, such as birds or insects in an act of “liberation”; this is a symbolic act designed to wish freedom upon those who are in captivity, imprisoned or tortured against their will.

Devout Buddhists might choose to make charitable donations to the less fortunate and will seek to bring happiness to those who need it most on this day, such as the elderly, the handicapped and the ill of health.

About Borobudur, Indonesia and how the festival is celebrated here:

Borobudur is a Buddhist stupa and temple complex, located in Central Java, Indonesia. It dates back to the 8th Century and has been awarded UNESCO world heritage site status. It’s a large, ancient monument and the largest Buddhist structure on earth. The temple is set against a magnificent backdrop of active volcanoes and stunning scenery, making it an unmissable destination for those traveling around Indonesia.

Buddha Statue at Waisak in Borobudur, Indonesia

Buddha Statue at Waisak in Borobudur, Indonesia

Borobudur is a central meeting point for thousands of Indonesian Buddhists who will flock here to celebrate the holy day. It’s not unknown for Buddhists from abroad to fly over especially too.
Waisak Day at Borobudur will be celebrated on Saturday, May 25th in 2013 and the day will be a public holiday in Indonesia.

At Borobudur, thousands of Buddhist monks will join together to repeat mantras and meditate as they circuit the temple in a ritual called “Pradaksina”. This is a form of tribute to the temple. Rituals feature heavily the Borobudur celebrations, especially those that are symbolic. In 2012, monks celebrated the special day by bottling holy water (which symbolises humility) and transporting flames (which signifies light and enlightenment) from location to location. The monks also took park in the “Pindapata” ritual, where they received charity from the people of Indonesia.

Each year, one of the many Indonesian Buddhist organisations will take the lead in the festivities and organise the famous 15,000-strong procession that marks the special day and concludes the celebrations. Last year, the festival ended with a spectacular candle-lit walk from Candi Mendut to Borobudur where one thousand lanterns were set free in the night sky. As you can imagine, this created an impressive and magical display.

-> Find the best hotel deals near Borobudur Temple *

Can spectators watch?

Last year, people were invited to visit Borobudur to enjoy the procession and celebrate the day on the grounds in front of the temple, but understandably, guests were unable to climb the temple during proceedings.

Photo credits from top: pwbaker, Imam Hartoyo, Imam Hartoyo and bull_sit

Milda Indonesia Travel Guide

Milda is a guest contributor at Indonesia Travel Guide. She is the Community Manager @ AsiaRooms. Born in Lithuania (love it!), studied in the UK, travelled around Asia and USA, taught in Africa and now residing in Singapore where, equipped with a strong cup of coffee and surrounded by an amazing team I’m blogging about travels, cultures, events and hotels in Asia.

Festival in Indonesia

Being a diverse country of origins and religions, Indonesia has a good mix of cultural events, ceremonies and festivals. Come and experience the Indonesian festivals all year round, as you can see you will never be short of choices.

Having a population of more than 230 million people, even the ‘minorities’ of people will have large enough celebrations. Here you can find for religious events from Muslims, and then Buddhists, Christians, and the rest of more local festivals, ceremonies, or arts and cultural events, some celebrated by the nation while most unique to local areas or regions.

Nyepi

Nyepi, literally means “Day of Silence, is the day of the Balinese New Year, commemorated every Isaawarsa (Saka new year) base on Balinese calendar, therefore changes every year but generally in March. On this day you will find everything is closed in Bali as it is a day of fasting and meditation. But on days preceding to it, you will see people of Bali scrubbing clean the status on Gods, pray,hold ceremonies and various other rituals. Read more on Nyepi in Bali Festivals.

Nyepi, Balinese New Year @ Indonesia
Nyepi, Balinese New Year. Photo by mattspong





Toraja Funeral Ceremony

At Tana Toraja, you may observe their famous Toraja Funeral Ceremony. The Toraja people, who lives in the highlands of South Sulawesi, do elaborate and fascination funeral rites to send the spirit of the dead to the after-world in order to prevent misfortune on the deceased family. Usually, between July to September, Toraja from all over Indonesia will return to celebrate these annual funeral rituals.

-> See Top 5 Things to do in Tana Toraja, Sulawesi

Toraja Funeral Ceremony @ Indonesia
Toraja Funeral Ceremony. Photo by Arian Zweger

Baliem Valley Festival

This Baliem Valley festival unique only to the Papua people, tracing its root in the belief, held by the various local tribes, that war is not a just a conflict but also a symbol of fertility and prosperity. Celebrated in August, the main event is the mock-war between the local tribes, with more than 20 different tribes, each with 30-50 people, clad in traditional clothing, and fighting gears. There are also side performances and attractions of local traditional games, dances, and local food showcase. It is a vibrant and unique celebration in the Baliem Valley of indigenous culture.

-> Read Guide to Baliem Valley, Papua (Irian Jaya)

Baliem Festival, Indonesia

Baliem Festival. Photo by Carsten ten Brink

Kesodo (Kasada) Ceremony

Hundreds of thousands of Tenggerese will gather at the famous Mount Bromo, an active crater in East Java, Indonesia, during August. Asking for blessings and another year free of eruptions, the people will present offerings of rice, vegetables, fruits, animals, and other local produce to the God of the Mountain.

-> Read the Guide to Hiking Mount Bromo

Pasola

During February or March, Pasola will be celebrated in various locations across East Nusa Tenggara. Every year there will be an announcement on where and when the celebration will be held. It is one of the most exciting Jousting Festival, well known around the world, where people on horseback without saddles will throw spears (know as hola) at each other to unseat the opponent. It is a traditional Sumba ritual sport to keep the spirits happy and to bring a good harvest.

Waisak @ Borobudur, Indonesia
Waisak at Borobudur. Photo by pwbaker

Waisak (Vesak)

In commemoration of the birth, enlightenment, and death of the Gautama Buddha, the Indonesian Buddhist will usually observe this special day sometime during the full moon of May / June. During Waisak in Borobudur, the largest Buddhist monument in the world, the day will be grandly celebrated by thousands of monks and pilgrims. Centred at the three Buddhist temples is the ceremony of walking from Mendut to Pawon and ending at Borobudur.

-> See Guide to Borobudur Temple Compounds

Galungan

This important Hindu festival in Bali, it is celebrated for the coming of the gods and the ancestral spirits to dwell in the home of their descendants. During this festival, Hindus will drive off evil spirits with incantations and firecrackers, while express gratitude to their Gods by inviting them down to earth by celebrations of offerings, dancing and new clothes.

Galungan @ Bali, Indonesia
Galungan at Bali. Photo by Photo by Carl Ottersen

Ramadan

Id-al-Fitr

Follow from the fasting, the Muslims will end it with a huge celebration for three days following it.

Eid al-Fitr

This is when the Muslims commemorate birth of Prophet Muhammad, with week-long festival of gamelan performances and parade of floats.

Independence / National day

The Indonesians will celebrate their Independence day on 17th of August, and this is their biggest national festival. Usually, there will be a grand parade before the President in Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia.

Independence Day in Jalan Jaksa, Jakarta, Indonesia

Independence Day in Jalan Jaksa, Jakarta. Photo by Graham Hills

Christmas

Despite being only 8% of the population who are Christian, it is still a significant amount of people with it being a famous festival and a national holiday in December. Here you will find the usual Christmas celebrations of markets and shops selling gifts and accessories while many places organized party and celebrations.

Specific places in Indonesia festivals:

Jalan Jaksa Festival

At the capital of Indonesia, Jakarta, you may at least find a festival worth a visit. It usually takes place in July / August, where you can find the street closed to all traffic and replaced with food stalls, craft workshops, street artists and musicians. You may try food from all kinds of Indonesian specialties while immersed in the rest of the art shows like traditional martial art combat or Betawi orchestra. You may also find batik making workshops in the midst of it all. Jalan Jaksa is also a popular place to stay in Jakarta *.

Festival Teluk Kendari

In April, there will be partying and dragon-boat races in Sulawesi’s Kendari Bay.

Bidar Race

In August, you can find lots of vivid bidar (canoes) race in Sumatra’s Sungai Musi.

Bali Arts Festival

Largest annual celebration of art and culture in Indonesia, with a full month (between June-July) of daily performances, arts exhibitions, dances, food and other cultural offerings. Read more about this famous Bali Arts Festival. It is important to search for a cheap Bali hotel a couple of months before this festival since they will increase their rates a few weeks to a month before.

-> See Where to stay in Bali

Bali Arts Festival @ Indonesia
Bali Arts Festival. Photo by Pandu Adnyana

Yogya (Jogja) Arts Festival

In June – July, you will find shows and exhibitions in the Java’s cultural capital Yogyakarta.

-> Read Top 10 Things to Do in Yogyakarta

Krakatoa festival

This annual festival, held in Lampung, to celebrate the volcanic island called, you guessed it, Krakatoa. There will be performances, elephant procession and various dances in the town with the finale of the event is a trip to the active volcanic island itself.

Bau Nyale Fishing Festival @ Lombok, Indonesia
Bau Nyale Fishing Festival at Lombok. Photo by kenken31

Bau Nyale Fishing Festival

In February or March, hundreds of people will rush to Lombok to catch a glimpse of the first nyale (worm-like fish) at the huge fishing festival. The indigenous Sasak people of Lombok will commemorate a mythical princess who had to drown in these waters to escape a politically arranged marriage. This festival is held at the same time with the season of these worm-like fish, where they are caught and eaten roasted in banana leaves with much enthusiasm.

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