July 4, 2020

Saraswati Day, also known as ‘knowledge day’ is dedicated to the Hindu goddess of knowledge, music, the arts, wisdom and learning. This day is observed every 210 days on Watugunung (the last week of the Balinese calendar). The philosophy of Saraswati Day is that the most important thing for human life is knowledge.

Saraswati” is derived from the Sanskrit words ‘sara’ and ‘swaandthi’ that together represent ‘the one who gives meaning’ or ‘the one who is a stream of knowledge’, able to impart wisdom to those willing to receive it. An alternate interpretation is that “Saras” refers to flow and “wati” means woman. Therefore, Saraswati as a symbol of knowledge flows like a river and is very interesting, much like a beautiful woman.

Saraswati is often regarded as a source of inspiration for those wishing to go beyond mere sensory pleasure and ultimately gain enlightenment. It is believed that without the goddess, the world would be filled with chaos, confusion and ignorance.

In Balinese folklore, Saraswati is often depicted as a beautiful four-armed goddess, riding on a white swan (symbolizing prudence) among water lilies (or lotuses, symbolizing holiness) each arm holding a zither (string instrument – symbolizing that science develops through the growth of culture), scriptures (lontar or traditional book representing science or knowledge) and rosary beads (genitri – symbolizing knowledge which is never ending).

Saraswati Day is celebrated across Bali in temples, homes, schools and offices. On this holy day, Balinese Hindus give thanks to the goddess through dance, offerings, rituals, songs, prayers, and gatherings. On the afternoon of Saraswati Day, the Balinese avoid reading or writing as books are offered to the Goddess Saraswati. As evening falls (also referred to as Malam Sastra), people read religious books at home or in the temples to honour the Goddess.

The day after Saraswati Day is called Banyu Pinaruh day. “Banyu” means water and “Pinaruh” mean wisdom. In other words, wisdom flows like water and is necessary for human kind. Balinese Hindus pray for Dewi Saraswati to provide them with wisdom and symbolically cleanse themselves in the sea, lakes or rivers as well as drink traditional medicine made from various leaves which are very good for the health. The philosophy of Banyu Pinaruh day is that the second most important factor of human life is good health.

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