When I was a kid my mother sang Balinese song to me before I go to sleep, the lyrics were something like this; sking tuhu manah guru mituturin cening jani, kaweruan luwir senjata, ne dadi prabotang sai, keanggen ngeruruh mertha, se enun ceninge urip. Means as follows: sincerely tell you now, knowledge is a tool that you can use it every day to earn income in your lifetime. This article will remind us how the Balinese respect knowledge by celebrating Saraswati Day.
Saraswati is God’s manifestation of knowledge and wisdom. She is depicted as a beautiful and gracious goddess, a personification of all knowledge, with four arms holding the following item; a chain symbolizing the ever lasting quality of knowledge, a lontar palm book symbolizing the source of accumulated knowledge, a lotus water lily as the symbol of beauty and purify and the rebab (Balinese violin) the symbol of science and culture. Saraswati ride a white swan which s the symbol of prudence. It is though prudence one’s knowledge can be used to distinguished good from bad. The swans struggle to keep floating on the swift unending current of passing time. Saraswati itself means flowing in Sanskrit which represents knowledge.
The Saraswati holiday’s believed as the day knowledge descends to earth and ever six months or so, according the Balinese lunar wuku calendar, Saraswati as the source of knowledge and guardian of all books and learning, is given a well-earned rest for one day and material is temporary made unavailable to mortals. On that holiday, Balinese refrain from reading and writing, for to do so, would show their ingratitude to the goddess.
On the Saraswati day ceremonies will be held all over Bali, however Balinese people learn or work, using written materials. The celebration begins with a prayer requesting a blessing for peace and knowledge which has descended to the earth. Special offering called “Canang Saraswati” are made for all books, including “lontar “traditional palm leaf , the source of knowledge. The tool of knowledge will be blessed and showered with offering; not only the old holy books (written on along, thin, slabs of stiff lontar palm), but all other form of written material and this now include computers and typewriters with their built-in memory. Children have their school books blessed at home but may still make a trip to school to help organize the blessing of other written material kept at school. Libraries temporarily off laden books from shelves so the books can be blessed. Offices attend to their books in much the same way and people visit their temple as “the island of the Gods” says thank-you to the Saraswati.
The following day, the Balinese will have a self purification ceremony to enable them to receive the knowledge and wisdom from the goodness. Four days after Saraswati ceremonies, the Balinese will hold “Pagerwesi” which a continuation of the Saraswati ceremonies. This is hope that knowledge will make people aware of their duty of their fellow beings and that man will use science for improvement not destruction.
Although the ceremony is in the Balinese month of “Sasih”, on the day called “Watugunung”, it is always falls on Saturday. If you wish to see mass of offering being carried out by the Balinese on this special day, you can visit the Jagatnatha Temple in central Denpasar at about 09:00 a.m. Perhaps with the blessing of the goddess Saraswati, a little knowledge concerning this day can be bestowed upon you. We wish you a Happy Saraswati Day!
Dedicated to my mother, I love you