The Cultural Capital
Steeped in Hindu religion, ancient culture and long held traditions like the kecakdance and the terrifying majesty of the Barong, Bali is someplace no one leaves without feeling deeply moved. The Balinese intrinsically connect their arts with worship and it seems that almost every Balinese is an artist, practicing their devotion on canvas, weaving and rice decorations from a very young age. These vibrant cultural expressions cover the myriad shrines, paddy fields and private homes around the island. Festivals and temple celebrations happen on a daily basis somewhere on the island. It is also a common sight to see streets and buildings adorned with penjor – decorated bamboo poles that curl at the tips, representing the sacred mother mountain, Gunung Agung – while little offerings known as canang are left everywhere by reverent locals as a daily offering to the gods. Major island-wide celebrations like like Galungan and Kuningan fill the Balinese calendar however there is none quite like Nyepi. Celebrated during either March or April, depending on the lunar calendar. Nyepi is the Hindu New Year in Bali and the community conducts riotous rituals a day beforehand to drive out evil spirits with firecrackers, kul kul drums and traditional music – along with a parade of Oguh oguh, symbolic monster puppets that are burnt at midnight. On Nyepi day, no cars are allowed on the roads and no lights or noises are permitted across the island.
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