5 Unique Religious and Cultural Ceremonies in Bali

For both Indonesians and foreigners, Bali is religiously and culturally unique. Therefore, it is not surprising that one of the primary reasons why they visit this Island of the Gods is to watch and even to participate in various religious and cultural ceremonies celebrated by local Balinese people. If that’s the purpose of your visit to Bali, you should know that there are plenty of ceremonies and celebrations that you can watch and participate in. The five most popular of them are listed as follows.



Ngaben Ceremony Bali

Ngaben Ceremony Bali


Ngaben Ceremony

This should actually be put at the end of the list because Ngaben is a cremation ceremony for the deceased people in Bali. However, because it is regarded as the most popular religious ceremony in Bali (it is even so popular that it is the first ceremony that children living outside Bali know when they first learn about Bali), putting it at the top of the list would be more appropriate. There are at least three special things about Ngaben. Firstly, although it is supposed to be a funeral ceremony, its celebration is often filled with joy instead of sadness because its participants believe that by accomplishing this ceremony, their deceased relative has successfully been sent to the next life. Secondly, not all deaths are cremated immediately after their death. There are some who need to be buried before they are exhumed and cremated. This special situation takes place when the deceased person passes away at the time in which cremation ceremony is prohibited. Thirdly, at very specific occasions, Ngaben may not involve the burning of a real body at all. This can be happen when the deceased person dies in a foreign country or in some unknown place or if his/her body is lost.



Ngurek Ceremony Bali

Ngurek Ceremony Bali


Ngurek Ceremony

Ngaben is popular because of its splendor, but Ngurek is popular because of its notoriety. In this ceremony, performers stab various parts of their own body using sharp weapons or objects. Kris (two-edged wavy dagger) is the most common weapon that is used in this ceremony, but any other sharp objects, such as spear or sharpened cane, may also be used. There are three interesting facts about this ceremony. Firstly, no matter how hard the performers tab themselves, they will least likely be wounded. Secondly, when performing this ceremony, they are in hypnotic state. Many people believe that the reason why they become invulnerable to stabbing is because their ancestor’s spirit has entered their body and grants the power of invulnerability to them. However, the primary lesson of this ceremony is actually that when they give themselves to God, they will lose nothing even if they try to hurt themselves. Thirdly, to make the ceremony more terrifying, especially for spectators, the performers often don’t hesitate to try to pierce some of the most sensitive parts of their body, such as their eyes.



tooth filing ceremony bali

tooth filing ceremony bali


Tooth Filing Ceremony

The name of this ceremony may terrify you; however, after you see it, you may not be terrified by it anymore and in fact, you will start to be aware that the lesson from this ceremony is actually very valuable. Tooth filing is a ceremony in which adolescents’ canine teeth are filed and leveled. Although it seems to be terrifying, it is actually regarded as a joyous ceremony that even the adolescents whose teeth are filed are happy to celebrate it. There are three interesting facts about this ceremony. Firstly, it is a mandatory ceremony for all Balinese adolescents because it marks their transition from childhood to adulthood and from animal to human and because it frees them from desire, greed, anger, emotional intoxication, confusion, and jealousy, which Balinese people regard as six major vices. Secondly, although this ceremony is normally done to adolescents, it may also be done to older people, usually because of financial reason. Thirdly, it is a big celebration (this is why financial consideration is involved in its planning) and every big celebration is worth-watching. This is why you should watch it if you have the chance.


nyepi ceremony bali


Nyepi is a commemoration of the Saka New Year (Isakawarsa) according to the Balinese calendar. The interesting part of this commemoration is not the Nyepi ceremony itself because it can barely be called a celebration when its primary agenda only includes silence, fasting and meditation. The word Nyepi actually means the day of silence. Therefore, on that day, all Balinese Hindus must stay at their home or temple and don’t perform anything that restricts their one-full-day self-reflection. Although Nyepi is a Hindu ceremony, non-Hindus, including tourists, are often encouraged or even required to respect their Hindu counterparts by not going out of their homes and hotels on that day. So, if you cannot leave your hotel, where’s the fun? Well, as said earlier, the interesting part of this ceremony is not the day of Nyepi, but all rituals that happen before and after that day. Before it, you can observe the Melasti and Bhuta Yajna rituals and after it, you can see people greeting and forgiving one another during the Labuh Brata and Dharma Santi rituals.


Megibung Ceremony

This ceremony is interesting because it allows you to eat together with local Balinese people. If you have a chance to visit Karangasem in the eastern part of the island, you may have a chance to participate in this ceremony. Residents of Karangasem regularly carry out this ceremony as an observance of their gratitude to the Almighty. In this ceremony, people sit together at a particular place with a large assortment of foods presented before them. If you are there, you may be invited to join the party. All participants will then eat together while discussing about various affairs. It is a truly fun ceremony that will surely make your mouth water.

The aforementioned five ceremonies are only few examples of Balinese ceremonies that indicate how rich Balinese culture is. If you decide to spend your next holiday in Bali, be sure to check other ceremonies that you can attend. Remember that Bali is famous not only because of its scenic tropical beaches and countryside, but also because of its rich culture.

Subscribe to Dang Derm Blog RSS