There are few societies in the world where religion plays as important a role as in Bali. The unique Balinese version of Hinduism is a vibrant religion that expresses itself not only in the lavish temple festivals, but in the countless simple rituals performed by the dutiful Balinese throughout the day. No opportunity is lost to worship God in a series of ceremonies that streches from birth to death, often involving whole communities, if not the whole island, in beautiful and exotic celebrations of religious life.
Balinese Hinduism incorporates elements from Buddhism, animist beliefs and ancestral worship, that were picked up during the religion's long journey from the Indian motherland to the Indonesian Archipelago. In Hindu Dharma, the one supreme God, Ida Sanghyang Widhi Wasa, with His three manifestations Brahma the Creator, Wisnu the Preserver, and Siwa the Transformer, presides over a pantheon of countless local deities and spirits.
In this environment the Balinese try to achieve Moksha, religious purity, by living in accordance with their religion's three guiding principles: Tatwa, the philosophies of God and the universe - Susila, the karmic moral codes and objectives of a rightful life on earth - and Upacara, the ceremonies and rituals performed by the dutiful worshipper.
There are rituals for everything imaginable, from knowledge, cleansing machines to marriage and birth ceremonies - all of different types and levels. Rituals consist of calling down the gods and the ancestors for visits from their heavenly abode above the mountain. They come down during temple festivals and are entertained with dances and feted with offerings. They can also be called down through the entreaties of a priest.
It is impossible, even for short-time visitors to Bali, not to meet and be fascinated by this devotion. On auspicious days of the 210 day Balinese ceremonial year all travel by road is sure to be interrupted by smiling and laughing Balinese dressed in their temple finest, on their way to a village or family ceromony – and even the airport is sometimes affected. As the only airport in the world, the Balinese Ngurah Rai airport closes completely once every year in deference to Nyepi, the day of silence that inaugurates the Balinese New Year.