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  • Print publication year: 2007
  • Online publication date: February 2014

11 - The Balinese Pawukon Calendar


What is ‘really real’ is the name … of the day, its place in the transempirical taxonomy of days, not its epiphenomenal reflection in the sky.

—Clifford Geertz: The Interpretation of Cultures (1973)

The Pawukon calendar of Bali is a complex example of a calendar based on concurrent cycles (see Section 1.11). The whole calendar repeats every 210 days, but these 210-day “years” are unnumbered. The calendar comprises 10 subcycles of lengths 1 through 10, all running simultaneously. The subcycles that determine the calendar are those of length 5, 6, 7; the others are altered to fit, by repetitions or other complications.

Like many other cultures in the region, the Balinese also have a lunisolar calendar of the old Hindu style (see Chapter 9), but leap months have been added erratically; we do not describe its details. This lunisolar calendar is used to determine only one holiday: Nyepi, a “New Year's Day” marking the start of the tenth lunar month, near the onset of spring.

Structure and Implementation

The cycles and supercycles are endless, unanchored, unaccountable, and, as their internal order has no significance, without climax. They do not accumulate, they do not build, and they are not consumed. They don't tell you what time it is; they tell you what kind of time it is.

—Clifford Geertz: The Interpretation of Cultures (1973)

The main subcycles of the Pawukon calendar are those of length 5, 6, and 7, and the whole calendar repeats every 210 days, the least common multiple of 5, 6, and 7.

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Calendrical Calculations
  • Online ISBN: 9781107051119
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