In Bali, local people use two balinese calendars: the Pawukon Calendar and Saka Calendar. Religious rituls are so important there, that understanding the calendars is key to figuring out when those special days occur on the island. Apart from the Western(Georgian) calendar, Balinese also use two other calendars to keep all the important dates. The Pawukon Calendar and the Saka Calendar.
The Pawukon Calendar – Balinese Calendars
Pawukon calendar covers only 210 days and is related to Hindu tradition and used by the Balinese to set the dates for most religious ceremonies, market days, birthdays and many other special occasions. This calendar consists of ten different weeks, all of which start on the first day of the year.
In Pawukon calendar there is the one-day week, the two-day week and so on up to the ten-day week. To add to the confusion, not only is there a unique name for each of these weeks, but also fro each day of every week. Due to 10 different week systems running at the same time, any given day can have up to 10 different names in the Pawukon callendar. The most important eeks are the tree-, five-, and seven-day weeks. For instance, the three-day week is used to set up market days in Bali. A Pawukon year is complete after 30 cycles of the seven-day week(210 days).
Special days occur when specific days from differen weeks overlap each other. For instance, Kajeng Keliwon is a holy day that takes place every 15 days when the last day of the three-day week(Kajeng) coincides with the last day of the five-day week(Keliwon). On Kajeng Keliwon people put special offerings around their house to ward off evil spirits.
The Saka Calendar – Balinese Calendars
Saka Calendar is based on the lunar cycle that consists of 12 months of 30 days each. Each month begins the day after a new moon, also known as the dark moon (Tilem). The name of each month is taken from old Sanskrit words for the numbers from 1 to 12.
In order to synchronise solar and lunar calendars because the moon cycle is not exactly 30 but 29.5 solar days, there are two lunar days added to one one solar day every 63days. An extra month, known as an intercalary month, is also added when necesarry to keep the Saka calendar from falling behind the Georgian calendar and to make sure “Tilem Sasih Kepitu”, the new moon (the last day) of the 7th lunar month, always occurs in January.
Siwaratri, or the ‘night of Siwa’ is always celebrated on the day before Tilem Sasih Kepitu. It’s a very special day for the Balinese to meditate and reflect while worshipping Siwa. Siwaratri is believed to occur on the darkest and longest night of the year the winter solstice.
The Saka calendar has been in use since the year 78AD, so it is 78 years behind the Georgian calendar. A new Saka year starts the day after the first new moon in March. The Balinese celebrate their New Year in complete silence. On the Day of Silence or Nyepi, the whole island comes to a standstill – streets and roads are empty, shops are closed and people stay home for fasting and meditation.
Based on: “Leap&Hop Bali” by Isabelle Demenge
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