Cultural tourism in Bali has a unique aspect about it, as you find sparks of ancient Indian, Chinese and Arab culture fused in to a single tradition. Hinduism is the country’s main religion and as such you will find its influence in the various cultural activities and festivals of Bali.
Every day of the life is celebrated in one way or the other. Here is a glimpse of cultural tourism in Bali.
Festivals and the various events form an essential part of the people’s life in Bali. This is the reason what sets apart Bali culture from the other parts of the country. In order to preserve the traditions and the legacy that these ancient festivities have been carrying with them, the local Government holds various Annual Festivals on a regular basis.
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Balinese follow the traditional Saka and Wuku calendars to decide upon the dates of their festivities. These calendars are based on ancient Hindu calendars that follow the Western version with respect to the length of the year. .
The Annual Art Festival
This Annual Art Festival is the longest celebrated festival in Bali. It starts from the second Saturday of June and ends on the second Saturday in July. This is the festival that exhibits some very influencing traditional dance forms, exhibitions of the local art and culture. The famous Kite Festival is held in this Annual Art Festival of Bali.
One of the most important Bali festivals is Galungan. It celebrates the ascent of all Bali Gods and Goddesses on Earth. The festivities and celebrations continue for ten days and are organized throughout the island. The festival is marked as per the Wuku calendar. You will find the Barongs frolicking from one temple to another in villages, celebrating the ascent of their supreme deity.
The first day is celebrated as Pagerwesi which means ‘iron fence’. Ceremonial activities along with prayers are held as a request to the almighty for iron-willed emotional and spiritual protection against the demons that might resist the welcoming of the supreme deity on earth.
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With a Hindu influence apparent, the festival of Galungan celebrates these ten days of festivity as the win of ‘Dharma’ over ‘Adharma’ i.e. ‘The Good over The Evil’. To make the festivities special ‘penjor’s’ are fixed on the right-hand corner of every door of the house.
A ‘penjor’ consists of a tall pole made of bamboo which is decorated with fruits, coconut leaves and flowers, cakes etc. It is a must for every house. During these ten days of festivities, Balinese wear new clothes and deck up as well as they can.
The last day of the festival is considered as the most important one. It is known as Kuningan. It is marked with prayers that are held for the ancestor’s of the land.
The festival of Nyepi is celebrated on the basis of the traditional saka calendar. The festival is celebrated at the end of the Saka year which also falls after the new moon. Nyepi marks the beginning of the Balinese New Year which is popular by the name of ‘icaka’.
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The customs of the festival are unique as the day has to be passed by observing total silence. This is done to drive away evil spirits from all corners of Bali.
This festival has its roots based on the worship of the Hindu Goddess ‘Saraswati’. The goddess of knowledge is worshipped on this day with special offerings. Books, Vedas and other important manuscripts are worshipped along with the goddess with the hope for more knowledge and wisdom.
Bali Traditional Dances
Any kind of art form is an integral part of Bali culture. Dance and music is thought to be a means of pacifying gods and singing their glory to the commoners on earth. Bali dance forms have a very ancient legacy that has been carried forward by each generation of performers.
Here are some of the traditional dance forms of Bali that are a part of its rich cultural heritage. Most of these dance forms are tribute to the victory of ‘Dharma’ over ‘Adharma’.
Barong and fire Dance
The Barong form of dance glorifies the contest between the good and the evil. Elegant movements and energetic colored costumes are used to depict the war between the forces of death and destruction-‘Rangda’ and ‘Barong’ which depicts orders.
The kecak form of dance dates back to 1930. It is a ceremonial dance form that is practiced in the various temples during festivities. This dance form combines the techniques of “Sanghyang” trance form of dance with the traditional story of “Ramayana.” This can be an impressive dance form with more than hundred bare- chested singers participating in the act.
Legong is considered to be one of the oldest and traditional dance forms of Bali. The form calls for great deftness and knowledge of the pose and postures that accompany the dance form.
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The dance is generally performed by young girls and has remained the same for centuries. No improvisation is allowed.
This is a highly enjoyable form of dance that has its roots in Hinduism. The dancers enact the epic story of Ramayana through this form of dance.
Wayang Kulit is a shadow puppet dance. Intricately designed and hand painted gold leather puppets are used to enact the shadow performance. The stories enacted have been passed on from generations and some of them hold a mystical allure.
The most amazing feature about this dance form is that all the puppets are controlled by a single puppeteer. Each character is given a different voice and that too by the same man. Traditional musicians provide the needed music at the background. These plays can continue for several hours and days.
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Other than the various dance forms and festivities, Bali Gods and Goddesses have Hindu Origins. The Baisakhi temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu, the Elephant cave for Lord Ganesha, The Goa Lawah temple that is dedicated to Brahma are only some of the temples found in Bali.
The rituals and the traditions that mark the various festivities, represent a peaceful coexistence between the different religions of the country. It is because of these factors that Cultural tourism in Bali has become so popular among the tourists.