A massive street parade kicked off the 31st Bali Arts Festival on Saturday afternoon, attracting tens of thousands of spectators and triggering a widespread traffic jam in downtown Denpasar.
The annual arts gathering will run until July 11.
Bali Governor Made Mangku Pastika turned the cakra wheel (Lord Wisnu's disc-shaped weapon) to mark the beginning of the parade in front of the governor's official residence. The cakra bore the image of Siwa Nataraja; Lord Shiva is the cosmic dancer and the patron god of artists and performers. Siwa Nataraja is the official symbol of the Bali Arts Festival (PKB).
Hindu mythology says that the whole universe was created by Lord Shiva performing a dance, underlining the importance of the arts in the Hindu belief system.
As the governor finished turning the wheel, the Adhi Merdangga, a Balinese-style marching band, took to the stage and led the procession, playing a series of dynamic, upbeat compositions. The Adhi Merdangga was created by lecturers from the Denpasar-based Indonesian Arts Institute (ISI) based on the traditional Bleganjur percussion ensemble, usually used by the Balinese to accompany religious street processions.
The cultural procession featured 3,500 performers from every regency in Bali, troupes from several provinces and a foreign troupe from Japan. It moved along the city's major streets that connect the Puputan Badung square in downtown Denpasar to the sprawling compound of the Werddhi Budaya Arts Center in East Denpasar.
Three stages had been erected along the route to host government officials and foreign dignitaries. The artists performed in front of these stages and along the route.
The theme of the parade was Bhawacakra, the Circle of Life, which highlights the Balinese Hindu precepts on Utpetti (birth), Stiti (life) and Pralina (death), as the inherent and interdependent elements of existence.
The Bali Arts Festival will feature 180 performances presented by 14,000 artists.
A major exhibition of art objects and handicrafts will be open daily throughout the festival while performances will be held in the morning, afternoon and evening. This year's festival will see performances from troupes from the United States, Taiwan, Thailand, Mexico and India.