Bali festivals and events are important features in the social landscape of the island, and also permanent fixtures in the lives of the Balinese. Some of these unique cultural festivals and events are determined by Balinese calendars from long ago, while others are highlighted schedules that take place on certain dates each year.
These festivals largely form part of Bali's attractions and culture, showcasing the rich arts and cultural features that sets Bali apart from any other destination. The Provincial Government of Bali holds numerous festivals that pay tribute to this wealth, and the great thing is that you can match your visiting dates with these highlight events.
Bali Arts Festival
The annual Bali Arts Festival is held from the second Saturday of June through the second Saturday of July each year. Witness the grand parades that usually take place at the Puputan Square in Renon, Denpasar, and the schedule of art performances that run througout the weeks at the Denpasar Arts Centre.
Bali Kites Festival
The Bali Kite Festival is an annual celebration of one of the cultural icons of Bali, the traditional Balinese kite. It is an annual feast that serves as a preservation effort of an art form, anticipated by the international community, and involving village kite troupes from al over the island taking part in showcasing their gigantic traditional creations as well as contemporary designs. The festival usually takes place around the start of the windy season, between the months of June and August, with dates confirmed following favourable weather conditions.
Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year in Bali takes place around late January or mid-February each year. This special holiday is observed by Balinese of Chinese descent as well as by most Chinese Indonesians across the nation. Bali’s Chinese cultural influences go way back throughout the island’s history. Examples include Balinese temples bearing Chinese architectural features, the use of ancient Chinese coins in rituals, and early settlements in the Kintamani highlands where legend tells of the marriage between a Balinese king and a Chinese princess.
Fast forward to present day, you can visit majestic Chinese and Buddhist temples, called klenteng in the local tongue, around the island. They’re great places to visit on any day of the year, but are truly alive and festive during the Chinese New Year celebrations. Chinese barongsai lion and dragon dance troupes, together with their drum and cymbal wielding entourage, carry out wushu performances and acrobatic stunts to cheering crowds on the street and within temple courtyards. Chinese restaurants are also suitable places to dine out for the occasion over specialty cuisines.
Galungan and Kuningan
Bali's most important festival is the Galungan festival. It is a feast and festival which is held throughout the whole island and an annual event coinciding with the wuku year. It is believed that during this ten-day period, all Balinese gods will descend to earth for the festivities. Barongs prance from temple to temple and village to village in celebration of Galungan with the gods.
Galungan to the Balinese, is the most important holiday period as it symbolizes the victory of Dharma, or Virtue, upon Adharma, or all that is Evil. The festivities are made extra special by the fitting of 'penjor' on the right side of the entrance to every house.
A penjor is a tall bamboo pole terrifically decorated with woven young coconut leaves, cakes, fruits and flowers; and also a must for every Balinese household. The Galungan also sees the Balinese decked in their finest clothes and jewels for the day.
The last day of the 10-day festival is the most important day. Known as Kuningan, it is the climax of the ten-day Galungan, and also serves to bringing the holiday period to a close. Kuningan is a day for prayer, and a special ritual ceremony is held for the spirits of the Balinese's ancestors.
Just as the Galugan ends with a day of symbolic prayer, its beginning is marked by Pagerwesi. Pagerwesi literally means 'iron fence', and on Pagerwesi day every year, ceremonies and prayers are held in supplication for iron-strong mental and spiritual defense in welcoming the Galungan holiday.
Makepung Buffalo Races
Makepung is Bali's famous bull race, which takes place around harvested paddy fields around the town of Jembrana in the regency of Negara in West Bali. The official grand prix of buffaloes is designated as the Governor's Cup or 'Piala Bupati', which is scheduled every year around the month of July, and leads up to the finals and main celebrations around the month of November.
Bali celebrates a new year celebrating the turn of the Saka calendar, referred to as Nyepi. Nyepi falls on the day after the new moon on the ninth month, and is a new year that is celebrated uniquely - in total silence and seclusion!
On the day of Nyepi, there no activity whatsoever. No traffic at all on the roads; no amusement is held the whole day long, and no fires may be lit in observance of the religious Nyepi guidelines. On Nyepi Eve however, it is a whole scene of contrasts, as you may witness villagers all over the island lighting fire torches and parading giant effigies called ogoh-ogoh through the streets.
Sanur Village Festival
The Sanur Village Festival is an annual celebration of arts and culture of the Sanur beach community, featuring a week full of cultural highlights as well as food, water sports and environmental-awareness events. The week-long festivities are usually focused in the Maisonette area of the Inna Grand Bali Beach Hotel. Over the years, the festival features additional events that involve the fashion industry, yoga and wellbeing, sports and environmental awareness programs.
Saraswati is a holiday that celebrates the blessings of the namesake Hindu goddess of knowledge, arts and literature, often referred to by the Balinese as 'Dewi Saraswati'. To mark this joyous day, books of knowledge, manuscripts and Vedic scriptures are blessed and special offerings are made. Libraries and schools also conduct joint prayers. The day of Saraswati is the first in a series of five important religious highlights, and falls on an Umanis Watugunung Saturday on the Balinese 210-day pawukon calendar, hence its celebrations twice in a Gregorian year.