How to Read the Balinese Calendar

prayOne of the beautiful things about the Balinese culture we admire is the intricacies and respect the people have for their religious ceremonies. And what makes it even more interesting is the fact that every ceremony has a significance to not one but two of the calendars that they follow – the Saka (lunar calendar) and the Pawukon. Of course, the modern Gregorian calendar we know today is also part of their day to day life but for the benefit of learning about the Balinese culture, allow us to explain further how the Saka and Pawukon work.

The Saka
The Saka or Sasih calendar runs for 12-months of the lunar system with the month beginning a day after a new moon. In Balinese they refer to this moment as “tilem” and when a full moon or “purnama” occurs during that month, they will choose this period to have any anniversary celebrations and festivals as it is considered to be a sacred period.

Celebrations by presenting offerings and performing temple cleansing rites will be in full force days before the Sasih New Year in order to appease the gods and during the New Year, which is commonly known as Nyepi, the entire island shuts down with minimal light and total silence in order for the people to go through a period of reflection and meditation.


The Pawukon
Unlike the Saka, there are a total of 210 days in the Pawukon year which consists of six months and a total 35 days to each Pawukon month.

The complex part is that every month is also then divided into 10 “weeks” (one day week to ten day weeks concurrently) within that month. The significance of this is that all ten weeks have names deriving from Sanskrit for example:

  1. Ekawara for the one-day week
  2. Dwiwara for the two-day week
  3. Triwara for the three-day week
  4. Caturwara for the four-day week
  5. Pancawara for the five-day week
  6. Sadwara for the six-day week
  7. Saptawara for the seven-day week
  8. Asatawara for the eight-day week
  9. Sangawara for the nine-day week
  10. Dasawara for the ten-day week

At the same time each of these weeks have their own unique day names thus at any given calendar date, they could have up to 10 different weekday names. Yes, it is  certainly quite a lot to absorb! But the key thing to remember is their most important weeks are the 3, 5 and 7 day weeks. If there are ceremonies occurring during this period, which are not the full moon (which is more likely an event from the Saka calendar), chances are you’re looking at a Pawukon calendar related event.


While this may not be the detailed explanation of how the calendar works, you should be able to grasp an idea of why the Balinese take their ceremonies so seriously – because their calendars show much to celebrate from! If you’d like to learn more about this, simply speak to a member of our team and they will be more than happy able to share their knowledge with you.

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