Bali Culture – Saraswati
Saraswati – The day of knowledge
The 25th of June is the Balinese holy day of Saraswati which honours the Hindu goddess of wisdom, knowledge and learning Dewi Saraswati. Hindu philosophers view wisdom as attractive and something to be desired and therefore feminine.
The word Saraswati is derived from the Sanskrit words sara and swaandthi; meaning the one who gave essence or meaning and the one who knows. Saraswati also means the one that flows as a river of knowledge which will give wealth and enlightenment to those who are willing to learn or study.
Saraswati is actually observed over three days – Saraswati (Saturday), Banyupinaruh (Sunday) and Coma Ribek (Monday). The Balinese calendar is (210 days) and this day always falls on a Saturday.
Throughout Bali special offerings are made and presented for books and lontar (palm leaf manuscripts). It is an important day on the Balinese school calendar with young Balinese students coming to school dressed in their finest temple attire to join teachers and priests praying over their books and study materials. At universities Balinese alumni often return to their alma mater to join the worship.
Although Saraswati is the goddess of learning and books, no reading or studying is allowed during the day however in the evening the Hindu holy book may be read but only in the temple. As well, interestingly computers are not blessed on this day, they are blessed together with tools made of iron on Tumpek Landep.
Around Bali images and statues of Saraswati depict a beautifully lithesome woman with a crown, dressed in a sarong and sitting upon a lotus flower with a swan and peacock at her feet. She sometimes displays two arms and sometimes four holding instruments symbolising learning and knowledge – usually a lontar, rebab (Indonesan stringed instrument) lotus flower and vessel with holy water.
Throughout Bali homage will be paid to Saraswati especially at Pura Saraswati, the water temple in Ubud dedicated to Saraswati.
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