Archipelago

Balinese Hindus celebrate
Pagerwesi

Sacred ritual: A woman splashes holy water on a man’s hands during the commemoration of Pagerwesi at Jagatnatha temple in Denpasar, Bali, on Wednesday. The celebration, observed every 210 days, honors the lord of the universe. JP/Agung Parameswara
Sacred ritual: A woman splashes holy water on a man’s hands during the commemoration of Pagerwesi at Jagatnatha temple in Denpasar, Bali, on Wednesday. The celebration, observed every 210 days, honors the lord of the universe. JP/Agung Parameswara

Balinese Hindu devotees celebrated Pagerwesi on Wednesday by performing prayers in temples throughout the island.

In some parts of the island, Pagerwesi is a minor religious holiday, not on par with Galungan and Kuningan, during which the Balinese Hindus celebrate the victory of virtues over vices.

In Buleleng, the northern coastal region, however, Pagerwesi, is a major event, and the locals celebrate it in a lively way.

For many people in Buleleng, this has always been considered a time to show their love to their family. Hence, Buleleng natives who work in other cities in Bali return home to celebrate Pagerwesi with their families.

From early morning, people flocked to Kahyangan Tiga temples — the three temples dedicated to Brahma, Wisnu and Siwa — in their villages. Together with family, they also visited their ancestral temples.

For Buleleng natives, the celebration always ends with a prayer performed in cemeteries to pay homage to deceased relatives who have not yet been cremated. The living present an offering of rice, cakes and fruit to the deceased and at the end of the ritual they feast on the offering.

Pagerwesi — which means iron fence — is observed every 210 days to honor Sanghyang Pramesti Guru, or God as the “teacher” of the universe. Sanghyang Pramesti Guru is also referred to as Siwa and believed to be the manifestation of God who destroyed all evil in the world.

Hindu scholar Ketut Wiana said that the celebration of Pagerwesi symbolized worship of God as the true teacher. “Living without a teacher means living without guidance,” Wiana stated.

With economic development, and tourism in particular, the number of Balinese who have left their home villages and families to seek their fortunes in southern Bali has continuously grown. A local holiday, such as Pagerwesi, provides these Balinese with a precious opportunity to gather with their relatives.

Kadek Suartiningsih, a Buleleng resident who lives with her small family in Busungbiu village in Buleleng, took advantage of Pagerwesi to gather with her family, traveling to Singaraja with her husband and two children to be with her parents.

“Pagerwesi is a good opportunity to gather with all the family, as many of my sisters and brothers living in Denpasar also come home,” she said.

Wiana said that the merrier celebration of Pagerwesi in Buleleng was only part of tradition. “Every part of Bali has different traditions inherited from their ancestors, including Buleleng, which has always celebrated Pagerwesi more merrily than other regencies,” he said.

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