Rituals and activities in Bali are predetermined by whether a certain day is ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Virtually every Balinese household possesses a unique Balinese calendar for this kind of adherence.
In general, Easterners believe that each and every single thing boasts meaningful attributes. Chinese heritage has its Feng Shui, a concept of bearing and orientation and good fortune. Good luck or the contrary can be acknowledged from the layout of a building, its decoration, and even its day of construction. This concept guides us through precautions in planning and to avoid subsequent calamities or illnesses.
From this point of view, the Balinese share something in common with the Chinese culture. The Balinese are known for their ala ayuning dewasa views, through the concept of seeking the virtues of a day. They are used to ‘counting days’ to single out the best day or days for a certain endeavor.
To give a simple example, a reading might show that for someone to have a new haircut would better be on a Wednesday. The result is that it will be more attractive. Determining the ideal date seems complicated to fulfill. “Haircut day” is just one among many.
The fact is that finding the best day is not as complicated as people think. Some Balinese have inherited this knowledge from their ancestors. Several people have had the opportunity to study right from the masters or through various literature. When they failed to find the desired date, they would then ask for a priest to help them out with the calculations. Priests are the learned ones that people look to when considering the religious aspects and ritual-related dates.
In the past, not everyone had the access to gain knowledge of these date calculations. The pedanda or high priest was the only person from the Brahmana caste who had the authority to study the fundamentals of religion, rituals, and calendars. But now even elementary school students can learn how to count out Balinese days. They memorize the names of the day groups that recur in certain numbers – for example, the memorization of the panca wara, the five-day week system (a weekday system among ten others). Even though calculations are not detailed, one can easily understand that each Balinese day is special. This curriculum also keeps the tradition alive.
Sometimes it is hard to believe that this kind of practice still continues, for in this modern day and age people tend to favor everything faster and more practical. In other ethnic groups and nations there is a belief that goes, “if all is prepared well, then everyday can be a good day.”
However, even the waves of modernization just could not shift the Balinese’s conviction regarding dates. Although nowadays they don’t fully put their faith on all the calculated dates, but in some significant matters they stand by it.
People do not wait for a Wednesday to simply get their hair cut, but would really avoid a certain day to hold their wedding ceremony. If they break a certain rule, unwanted things could happen in their marriage afterwards. Believe it or not, it is purely a personal preference. But in Bali, no one dares to infringe on a handed down guideline, especially from an elder or a priest.
In 1950, the first Balinese calendar in the form that we know it today was launched. It became the best for people to assist them through the calculations of the dates. This calendar form provides much more information than the common calendar. It describes each day’s significance and consequence, a good day to do and a bad time to avoid. This calendar was compiled for the first time by Bambang Gede Rawi.
Bambang Gede Rawi was born and raised in Sukawati, in the Gianyar regency. He gained knowledge about calculating Balinese dates from his father, who was also a priest. He inherited manuscripts about days and learned from many priests. Later, his skill became widely known. In a Bali-Lombok priest meeting, he was appointed the one to assemble a complete Balinese calendar.
He then arranged Balinese calendars year by year. When he passed away, his grandson Bambang Gde Bayu continued his copyrighted creation and profession. Now, many penyusun kalender or ‘calendar arrangers’ have emerged. Generally, there is not much difference between one calendar and another. The differences lie in the details, complexity and reliability. When you can’t find the day you want, you can easily go to a priest for a consultation. If no ideal day is available this month, simply flip over the calendar’s page and try the next…