Hindu students and teachers arrived at their schools dressed in traditional Balinese attire Saturday, to pay homage to Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge.
Across the island, special offerings were placed on books and lontar manuscripts believed to be the earthly throne of the goddess.
No classes were held in the majority of schools in Denpasar as most students and teachers gathered at the schools' respective temples. Female students brought beautiful offerings made of colorful flowers and fruits to the school's library and placed them on stacked books draped with yellow and white cloths.
Similar offerings were also placed on computers. After completing the offering rituals, the students and teachers prayed together to the goddess. In several schools, religion teachers gave sermons about the meaning of the celebration and the importance of knowledge.
"Saraswati is the most important religious festival for those who dedicate their lives to the search of knowledge and wisdom," said noted scholar I Ketut Sumarta.
Saraswati is portrayed as a beautiful, four-armed goddess. Each hand carries a different object; a lontar manuscript, prayer beads, a wina lyre and a pot of sacred water. The four arms represent the four aspects of human learning; mind, intellect, alertness and ego.
"While the objects represent the true nature of knowledge, the manuscript represents the universal and divine nature, the beads represent unlimited nature, the sacred water represents purification and the lyre represents the aesthetic nature of knowledge," Sumarta explained.
Following the joint prayers at their respective schools, students then headed to Jagatnatha Temple in downtown Denpasar. Waves of school students flocked to the temple until late in the evening.
Security was tight around the temple with armed police officers closing the streets leading to the temple. Only the devotees were allowed to enter the area.
In the Hindu trinity, Saraswati is pictured as the consort of Brahma the Creator.
"In the esoteric teachings, Saraswati is actually the shakti *the power* of Brahma. This interpretation underlines one important fact; creation is only made possible through the possession of knowledge," Sumarta stressed.