The festival honours the Goddess of Knowledge, Arts, and Literature.
Bali, apart from its natural tourism assets, is steeped in customs and traditions many of which are centred on Hinduism, the island’s main religion. Balinese have been practising their colourful festivals, ceremonies and customs for centuries. These age-old events are highlights not to be missed during a visit to the resort island.
One of the main festivals in Bali is Saraswati, a day devoted to the Hindu Goddess of Knowledge, Arts, and Literature – Dewi Saraswati.
According to legends, Dewi Saraswati is a beautiful woman with four hands, riding on a white swan among water lilies. The swan symbolises prudence, so that one’s knowledge is able to distinguish between good and evil. The water lilies and lotus flowers are symbols of holiness.
The festival, also known as “Knowledge Day”, is celebrated once every 210 days according to the Balinese Pawukon (cycles) calendar. This year it falls on 28 November.
To mark this joyous day, books of knowledge, manuscripts and the Vedas are blessed. Families collect all their books, clean them, and place them in the family or school temples. Every place of learning and office is decorated lavishly, with shrines to Dewi Saraswati, placed in the northeast corner of the building. Offerings of food are taken in solemn procession to the piles of books in the temples.
The celebration is only in the morning, as it is believed that the goddess returns to heaven in the afternoon. No one is allowed to read or write books in the afternoon because all the books are blessed. In the evening people can read books (preferably religious books) at home or in the temple.
Saraswati closes the year of the 210-day Pawukon calendar. The following day is a day of cleansing, Banyu Pinaruh, during which people go to the sea and sacred river spots.