Hari Saraswati : Bali’s Celebration of Knowledge
Hari Saraswati, or Saraswati Day, is a special day in Bali celebrating Saraswati the Goddess of Knowledge:
Bali is unique with its assorted cultural manners that have been recorded in legends and preserved in its religion, Balinese Hinduism. And although the tourism boom and modernisation have set off to sneak their way into many areas of the island, it is astounding to see how the Balinese people still dearly adhere to the traditions of their ancestors.
That said, despite modern sciences and technologies (something that are also highly appreciated by the Balinese) currently taking control of the lives of many, the Balinese people still pay homage for the old manuscripts written on lontar (palm leaves) to thank for the ancient wisdom and knowledge the ancestors and the gods have bestowed upon them. It is during Saraswati Day that the sincere people of Bali pray and give offerings as a gesture to express gratitude and celebrate knowledge.
Saraswati is the goddess of knowledge, symbolised by a beautiful woman with four hands, riding on a white swan among water lilies. Her hands hold a lontar, the palm leaf manuscript; a chain, the symbol of knowledge as something that never ends; and a musical instrument, the symbol of science as something that develops through the growth of culture. During Saraswati Day, schools and institutes of education across the island will be flooded with students all dressed up in their ceremonial finery for a session of communal prayer. Resource books are piled high and blessed with offering of fruits, flowers and a sprinkling of holy water. Students take this opportunity to pray for guidance with future studies and to lead a harmonious life that adheres to the basic guidelines of Hinduism.
The Balinese Hindus in general will also flock to the temples and other holy places during this day. Just like the students, they will bring with them offerings to show gratefulness, for knowledge is something that can free them from darkness. Yet, in the afternoon of Saraswati Day, the Balinese Hindus are not permitted to read or write a book because all the books have been offered. On the morning following Saraswati Day, worshippers go to the beach to bathe and purify themselves in a cleansing ritual. This marks the conclusion of this particular religious occasion where the Balinese Hindus demonstrate their eternal gratitude to God Almighty who is personified by the ethereal Goddess Saraswati.
Saraswati is soon followed by Hari Pagerwesi, or the day of the iron fence.