The Balinese Hindus celebrated the holy day of Saraswati on Saturday, April 23, 2011 – a day set aside to honor God (Ida Sang Hyang Widi Wasa) for bestowing learning on mankind.
Speaking to Antara Bali, the chairman of the Bali chapter of the Hindu High Council (PHDI), Dr, I Gusti Ngurah Sudiana said of the holy day which falls once every 210 days, "the celebration of Saraswati is performed at temples or family homes, because the Goddess Saraswati is seen as the manifestation of the Almighty in the countenance of the Goddess of learning and knowledge."
Sudiana went on to explain how for Indian Hindus the Goddess Saraswati is portrayed as having four arms where in each hand is held a musical instrument, a book, prayer beads and a lotus flower. Adding: "The Goddess Saraswati is drawn as sitting atop a swan accompanied by a peacock. By Indian Hindus she is honored in the concrete form of a religious shrine (Murti Puja), while Hindus in Indonesia set aside a special day to honor the Goddess."
In keeping with Saraswati's role as the source of wisdom and knowledge, the day in Bali is marked by religious offerings made at libraries in their role as repositories of learning. Based on ancient lontar texts (Brata Saraswti), the Saraswati observance must take place in the morning or mid-day. Ironically for a day dedicated to learning and literature, during the period from morning to mid-day devote Balinese Hindus are forbidden to read or write. More orthodox devotees will refrain from reading and writing for an entire 24-hour period at Saraswati.
Sudiana explained that the etymology of the word Saraswati derives from the Sanskrit meaning "which flows from words.
"Banyupinaruh" – Cleaning the Body and the Soul
The day following Saraswati, this year falling on Sunday, April 24, 2011, is set a side for Banyupinaruh – a day whose names means literally “to cleanse one’s self.
On Sunday major beaches across the island were crowded with tens of thousands of Balinese in traditional dress to perform ritual bathing which also includes, for many, a happy outing to the oceanside with family and friends. On some of Bali’s more popular coasts, such as Tanah Lot, many young Balinese gather the night before to roast fish on an open fire in order to greet Banyipinaruh day with the morning sunrise.
Such is the popularity of this day that roads leading to the beaches became totally congested as the devotees made their way to and from the shore. This was the case at Tanah Lot where, according the Bali Post, a 48% increase in daily visitors was recorded on Sunday when nearly 12,000 entered the beach facing the iconic temple. Meanwhile, the beach at Gianyar, covering a stretch of some 15 kilometers, was also packed with worshippers coming to bathe in the ocean.
Inland, the Tirta Empul Temple Complex in Tampaksiring - a ritual bathing place for over a thousand years - was crowded by those seeking the cleansing powers of the temple's waters.
To the Balinese, Banyupinaruh provides the opportunity to cleanse both the body and the mind - a process of renewal and reconciliation with man, nature and God. Through such cleansing, the mind is opened making possible the opportunity for greater learning and wisdom in the future.
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