Pagerwesi is one of the holiest days in Bali and is celebrated every 210 days in the Balinese calendar. Observance of Pagerwesi coincides with the celebration of Saraswati – the day of knowledge. The reason for this is that after the celebration of knowledge and divine inspiration during Saraswati, Pagerwesi is observed to protect and shield this knowledge and inspiration from forces of evil.
Pagerwesi is derived from two words: “pager” meaning fence and “wesi” meaning iron. The iron fence is a symbol of strong self-protection and on this day, it is suggested that one surrounds themself with strong fortifications to ensure that evil does not enter their minds, speech and deeds and to avoid harm to their surroundings.
On this day, Balinese Hindus honour the Sang Hyang Pramesti Guru (also known as the deity Siva) as the “teacher” of the universe, responsible for wiping out all bad and evil entities in the world. Sang Hyang Pramesti Guru teaches people how to live their life appropriately, without succumbing to bad behavior and evil desires. This is a day where the Balinese strengthen their minds and souls against evil forces. Pagerwesi is also called “rerainan gumi” by the Balinese, which refers to a holy day celebrated everyone from all backgrounds – from the families of priests to common families.
In many regions of Bali, Pagerwesi is considered a very important holy day, celebrated in similar fashion to Galungan Day. Similar to other sacred days in Bali, celebrations are held at houses and temples throughout the island. Many people erect “penjor” (tall decorated bamboo poles) similar to during Galungan, and make offerings to the deceased awaiting cremation. The Balinese show their gratitude and pay their respects to Sanghyang Pramesti Guru (Siva), who is believed to be the most respected Guru (teacher), leading them in this universe from birth, protecting them during their lives and transforming them later when they die. Pagerwesi Day is also a day that an ancient battle between good and evil is celebrated. Pagerwesi is also unique compared to many other Balinese ceremonies because it is held in the middle of night.