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BALI CULTURE & TRADITION

Galungan is a Balinese holiday that occurs every 210 days and lasts for 10 days. Kuningan is the last day of the holiday. Galungan means "When the Dharma is winning." During this holiday theBalinese gods visit the Earth and leave on Kuningan.
Occurring once in every 210 days in the pawukon (Balinese cycle of days), Galungan marks the beginning of the most important recurring religious ceremony that is celebrated by all Balinese. During the Galungan period the deified ancestors of the family descend to their former homes. They must be suitably entertained and welcomed, and prayers and offerings must be made for them. Those families who have ancestors that have not yet been cremated, but are still buried in the village cemetery, must make offerings at the graves.

A "penjor"
Although Galungan falls on a Wednesday, most Balinese will begin their Galungan 'holiday' the day before, where the family is seen to be busily preparing offerings and cooking for the next day. While the women of the household have been busy for days before creating beautifully woven 'banten' (offerings made from young coconut fronds), the men of our village usually wake up well before dawn to join with their neighbours to slaughter a pig unlucky enough to be chosen to help celebrate this occasion. Then the finely diced pork is mashed to a pulp with a grinding stone, and moulded onto sate sticks that have been already prepared by whittling small sticks of bamboo. Chickens may also be chosen from the collection of free-range chickens that roam around the house compound. Delicate combinations of various vegetables, herbs and spices are also prepared by the men to make up a selection of 'lawar' dishes. While much of this cooking is for use in the offerings to be made at the family temple, by mid-morning, once all the cooking is done, it is time for the first of a series of satisfying feasts from what has been prepared. While the women continue to be kept busy with the preparations of the many offerings to be made at the family temple on the day of Galungan, the men also have another job to do this day, once the cooking is finished. A long bamboo pole, or 'penjor', is made to decorate the entrance to the family compound. By late Tuesday afternoon all over Bali the visitor can see these decorative poles creating a very festive atmosphere in the street.
On Wednesday, the day of Galungan, one will find that most Balinese will try to return to their own ancestral home at some stage during the day, even if they work in another part of the island. This is a very special day for families, where offerings are made to God and to the family ancestors who have come back to rest at this time in their family temple. As well as the family temple, visits are made to the village temple with offerings as well, and to the homes of other families who may have helped the family in some way over the past six months.
The day after Galungan is a time for a holiday, visiting friends, maybe taking the opportunity to head for the mountains for a picnic. Everyone is still seen to be in their 'Sunday best' as they take to the streets to enjoy the festive spirit that Galungan brings to Bali.
The date for Galungan and other special Balinese days is shown on the Balinese Calendar. Galungan is also celebrated in the rest of Indonesia such as in the Balinese communities spread over Sumatra.

Nyepi is a Balinese "Day of Silence" that is commemorated every Isakawarsa (Saka new year) according to Bali's calendar (in 2012, it will be on March 23rd). It is a day of silence, fasting, and meditation. The day following Nyepi is also celebrated as New year.
Observed from 6 a.m. until 6 a.m. the next morning, Nyepi is a day reserved for self-reflection and as such, anything that might interfere with that purpose is restricted. The main restrictions are: no lighting fires (and lights must be kept low); no working; no entertainment or pleasure; no traveling; and for some, no talking or eating at all. The effect of these prohibitions is that Bali's usually bustling streets and roads are empty, there is little or no noise from TVs and radios, and few signs of activity are seen even inside homes. The only people to be seen outdoors are the Pecalang, traditional security men who patrol the streets to ensure the prohibitions are being followed.
Although Nyepi is primarily a Hindu holiday, non-Hindu residents of Bali observe the day of silence as well, out of respect for their fellow citizens. Even tourists are not exempt; although free to do as they wish inside their hotels, no one is allowed onto the beaches or streets, and the only airport in Bali remains closed for the entire day. The only exceptions granted are for emergency vehicles carrying those with life-threatening conditions and women about to give birth.
On the day after Nyepi, known as Ngembak Geni, social activity picks up again quickly, as families and friends gather to ask forgiveness from one another, and to perform certain religious rituals together.


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Rituals
First, The Melasti Ritual is performed at the 3-4 previous day. It is dedicated to Sanghyang Widhi Wasa and is performed at the beach to respect them as the owner of The Land and Sea. The ritual performed in Pura (Balinese temple) near the sea (Pura Segara) and meant to purify Arca, Pratima, and Pralingga (sacred objects) belongs to several temples, also to acquire sacred water from the sea.

Second, The Bhuta Yajna Ritual is performed in order to vanquish the negative elements and create balance with God, Mankind, and Nature. The ritual also meant to appease Batara Kala byPecaruan offering. Devout Hindu Balinese villages usually make ogoh-ogoh, demonic statues made of bamboo and paper symbolizing negative elements or malevolent spirits. After the ogoh-ogoh have been paraded around the village, the Ngrupuk ritual takes place, which involves burning the ogoh-ogoh.

Third, The Nyepi Rituals is performed with the following conditions:
Amati Geni: No fire/light, including no electricity
Amati Karya: No working
Amati Lelunganan: No travelling
Amati Lelanguan: Fasting and no revelry/self-entertainment

Fourth, The Yoga/Brata Ritual starts at 6:00 AM (e.g. March 26, 2009) and continues to 6:00 AM the next day.
Fifth, The Ngembak Agni/Labuh Brata Ritual is performed for all Hindus to forgive each other and to welcome the new days to come.
Sixth and finally, The Dharma Shanti Rituals is performed as the Nyepi Day or "Day of Silence."


Saraswati
Sarasvati Puja in Eastern India
In the eastern part of India, Odisha,West Bengal, Bih'r and Assam, Saraswati Puja is celebrated in the Magha month (January–February). It coincides with Vasant Panchami or Shree Panchami i.e. the 5th day of the bright fortnight of the lunar month of Magha. People place books near the Goddess' statue or picture and worship the Goddess. Book reading is not allowed on this day.


Sarasvati Puja in South India
In the southern states of India, Saraswati Puja is conducted during the Navaratri. Navaratri literally means Nine Nights. But the actual celebrations continue during the 10th day which is considered as Vijaya Dashami or the Victorious Tenth Day. Navaratri starts with the new moon day of the bright fortnight of the Sharad Ritu (Sharad Season of the six seasons of India) during September–October. The festival celebrates the power of the feminine aspect of divinity or shakti. The last two or three days are dedicated to Goddess Saraswati in South India.
The Gnana Saraswathi Temple in Basar, Andhra Pradesh on the banks of river Godavari is considered only one of 2 temples in India dedicated to the Goddess.
In Tamil Nadu, Sarasvati Puja is conducted along with the Ayudha Puja (the worship of weapons, and implements including machines). On the ninth day of Navaratri, i.e. the Mahanavami day, books and all musical instruments are ceremoniously kept in front of the Goddess Sarasvati early at dawn and worshipped with special prayers. No studies or any performance of arts is carried out, as it is considered that the Goddess herself is blessing the books and the instruments. The festival concludes on the tenth day of Navaratri (Vijaya Dashami) and the Goddess is worshipped again before the books and the musical instruments are removed. It is customary to start the study afresh on this day, which is called Vidyarambham (literally, Commencement of Knowledge).

In Kerala, the last three days of the Navaratri festival, i.e. Ashtami, Navami, and Dashami are celebrated as Sarasvati Puja. The celebrations start with the Puja Veypu (Placing for Worship). It consists of placing the books for Pooja on the Ashtami day. It may be in one's own house, in the local Nursery School run by traditional teachers, or in the local temple. The books will be taken out for reading, after worship, only on the morning of the third day (Vijaya Dashami). It is called Puja Eduppu (Taking [from] Puja). Children are happy since they are not expected to study on these days. On the Vijaya Dashami day, Kerala celebrates the Ezhuthiniruthu or Initiation of Writing for the little children before they are admitted to nursery schools. This is also called Vidyarambham. The child is made to write for the first time on the rice spread in a plate with the index finger, guided by an elder of the family or by a reputed teacher. The little ones will have to write “Hari Shri Ganapataye Namah and recite the same to mark the auspicious entry in to the world of education. This is considered a memorable event in the life of a person. In some parts of Kerala bordering Tamil Nadu, Ayudha Puja is also conducted during this period.


Respect for written material
In India it is customary that, out of respect, when a person's foot accidentally touches a book or any written material (which are considered a manifestation of Saraswati) or another person's leg, it will be followed by an apology in the form of a single hand gesture (Pran'ma) with the right hand, where the offending person first touches the object with the finger tips and then the forehead and/or chest. This also counts for money, which is considered a manifestation of the goddess of wealth Lakshmi.

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