Each day Desak and Kuman, the cook and housekeeper at our villa at Tumbak Bayuh, consult the Balinese calendar hanging on the kitchen wall. When Kiki, the villa manager, suggests we try to see a traditional ceremony while we’re on Bali, she heads inside to check the complicated almanac.
While we naturally have difficulty deciphering the thing, we’re told that even the locals find it challenging. Regardless, no Balinese would hold a ceremony, or do pretty much anything, without first studying the calendar to select an auspicious date.
What makes a Balinese calendar confusing for foreigners to understand is that it is actually three calendars in one, the Gregorian, Saka, and Pawukon calendars, and therefore includes all manner of details, from important Hindu celebrations, festivals and temple anniversaries to the full moons and new moons observed in the Saka or lunar calendar. The Pawukon calendar is different again, based on Bali’s rice growing cycle, with six months to a year and 35 days to a month, totalling just 210 days in a Pawukon year. Work that one out!
Although all Balinese make offerings and perform temple-cleansing rites on significant dates such as the Sasih New Year, there are many more ceremonies that are much more localised, with their dates chosen for particular events due to their auspiciousness. There are times when it is best to meditate or to socialise, marry or divorce, and bury and cremate. The banjar or village council even uses the Balinese calendar to select dates for their meetings, public events and sporting matches!
One day during our stay Kuman informs us that she’s taking a day off for a ceremony, while Desak, from a village a little farther away, tells us she’s taking time off on different dates in the Balinese calendar for the anniversary of her local temple. Kiki suggests we visit the temple at Uluwatu on the full moon when there should be more people about and a wonderful atmosphere, while another day she calls to tell us when and where there’s to be a spectacular cremation – naturally, on a date that’s been especially selected from the calendar.
They say that in Bali there is a ceremony going on somewhere on the island every day. Having lived with Balinese and with a Balinese calendar on our wall, we believe it.