9 January 2021

Tumpek Wayang is a traditional Balinese Hindu holiday and sacred festival which is celebrated every 210 days here on the island to celebrate art in all forms. This day is one part in a series of Tumpek days for blessing different subjects. Out of all the Tumpek days in the Balinese calendar, Tumpek Wayang may be considered the most mystical.

On this special day, ceremonies are held relating to the arts, specifically the traditional performing art form of shadow puppetry or wayang. Offerings are made to the equipment including masks and character puppets involved in the traditional theatrical art and they are also spiritually cleansed through ceremonies. Prayers are also carried out in order for the arts to be sustainable, enjoyable, and to bring good fortune. This festival brings together puppeteers who perform purification rites (ruwatan) to purify their bodies both physically and mentally.

Some believe that Tumpek Wayang is an unlucky day, similar to Friday the 13th in the West. Balinese mythology describes the story of an improper sexual encounter between the god Shiva and the goddess Uma, resulting in the birth of Dewa Kala, a scary demon. Old Balinese records state that on Tumpek Wayang, the god Shiva grants permission to a demon to devour a child born on this day. To protect newborns, the Balinese perform a special symbolic ceremony called Sapuh Leger to ward off demons and prevent harm from to the child. The Sapuh Leger ceremony requires the participation of a puppeteer, who plays special puppets as part of the ceremony.

However, the Balinese also believe that the god Ishvara manifests on earth at this time to protect humans from evil and to provide enlightenment. Enlightenment is believed to come in the form of artists, provided with the powers to create art.

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