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Celebrating Galungan and Kuningan in Bali


Immensely known as the Island of Gods, Bali is, obviously, the home for an ample number of exquisite Balinese ceremony, rituals and feasts. Galungan—one of Bali’s most important feasts—is approaching.

Galungan is a paramount feast for Balinese Hindus. It is acknowledged as a celebration to gleefully honor Ida Sang Hyang Widhi, the creator of the universe, and ancestral spirits. The feast symbolizes the triumphant victory of dharma (Good) over adharma (Evil) as it marks the moment when people dose themselves in a sacred bliss.

Galungan is celebrated once in a 210-day Balinese pawukon calendar to mark the singular moment when the spirits of the ancestors are believed to visit the Earth. During the descent of those ancestral spirits, Balinese people perform traditional rituals in order to entertain and welcome them. Families offer sacrifices of foods and fragrant flowers in a hope to express gratitude and ask for protection.

As a sign of the festivity, every house in the island sprouts penjor—bamboo poles adorned with coconut leaves, fruitages, and vibrant clothes as offerings. Those vibrant penjors are lining up on Balinese streets as if they welcome the passer-by. However, penjor is not the one-and-only thing to prepare during 10-day celebration of Galungan.

Considering the importance of this feast, the celebration actually begins several days before it officially begins. Three days before Galungan, families celebrate a ritual called Penyekeban, in which they cover up fruits to ripen them up quickly for the offerings that will eventually get on the penjor. On the penultimate day before the feast, families celebrate Penyajahan, in which they make jaja—Balinese traditional rice cake. A day before Galungan, people celebrate Penampahan, in which they decorate everything before leading up to the climactic slaughter of sacrificial animals for offerings to the ancestral spirits, to the creator, and, most importantly, to the good people crave for.

On Galungan day, Balinese swarm around the temples to pray and make their offerings. This is the very day when the streets of Bali are filled with local colors, Balinese vibrancy, fragrances of burned incense, and horde of Balinese with their best traditional dress wander around. Following Galungan, Manis Galungan is approaching. People visits kinfolks and associates in this day, which perhaps become the most amiable and relaxing day among the 10-day festivities.

The feast goes for 10 days and comes to an end with Kuningan, the day when the spirits eventually return to the heavens. The day also marks the climactic end of Bali’s holiest series of ceremonies with a hope that all the offerings, sacrifices, and rituals performed during the festivities bring all the good year ahead.