Galungan & Kuningan – A Balinese celebration of good over evil

Posted by Christina Zipperlen on

Image by Johan Mouchet on Unsplash.

Bali is a magical place. Without any doubt.

When a special holiday nears one can find the magic of this island picking up, as if the wind suddenly sweeps through every corner of this place infusing and sprinkling it all with an inexplicable force, spirit.

This energy amplifies and peaks shortly before this particular holiday leaving visitors and islanders almost breathless. During this time one can find – if attuned to the sensitivities of the non-physical – curious new frequencies reverberating through our entire being. 

Galungan & Kuningan are one of these holidays that have been besides Nyepi, the Day of Silence and Balinese New Year, a favorite of many since moving to the island of Bali.

Galungan takes place every 210 days and lasts for 10 days ending with the day named Kuningan.

The significance of Galungan

Galungan marks the beginning of the most important recurring religious ceremonies on the island of Bali. The spirits of ancestral spirits return to visit their former homes on Earth, and the current inhabitants have a responsibility to be hospitable through prayers and offerings. 

Hence, these 10 days are filled with enchanting ritual and auspicious ceremonies that celebrate the victory of dharma (good) over adharma (evil). Kuningan marks the end of the season when the spirits return.

Penjor. Photo source: Instagram @mochilamonkeys

Every household offers their reverence and hospitality through offerings and prayer. A so-called ‘penjor’ – a curved bamboo pole decorated with offerings made from coconut and palm leaves and flowers – arch the roads serving as enchanting reminders of its ancient past. Shortly before Galungan a penjor is erected by every home to welcome the honoured guests – the gods and the ancestors. It symbolises the strength and moral rectitude to which humans aspire and is a time when all Balinese remind themselves of their deep and ancient roots on the island.

What happens on Galungan & Kuningan?

Traditionally, the Galungan Eve on a Tuesday sees the slaughtering of pigs in preparation for communal feasts, as well as the baking of traditional rice cakes and the erecting of the iconic penjor bamboo poles. Penjors are intricately decorated poles, naturally curved at the top and are adorned with common harvest items such as rice, fruits, coconuts and coconut leaves. The men of the households erect their ‘artwork’ at each household gate on the eve of Galungan, which results in an impressive view throughout all village roads. Driving around the villages during Galungan is one of the most visually beautiful experiences one can have and the spirit and magic of Bali can truly be felt during this time.

The celebration peaks on a Wednesday when the Balinese people put on their finest clothes to visit family and pray at their family temples. The day of Galungan is important for the Balinese when everyone returns to their families and home villages. The following Thursday, called Manis Galungan, is a day to visit friends and relatives.

Photo source: Now Bali

Kuningan, on the other hand, marks the end of the 10-day festivities. The ceremony surrounding Kuningan refers to special offerings made of yellow turmeric rice. Yellow is also the colour of the Hindu god Vishnu, the protector, and member of the Hindu trinity Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu.

What makes this holiday so magical

As foreigners we are not specifically partaking in traditional Balinese rituals, however, it is an important part of the magic of Bali to understand that everything flows as one here – the divine, humankind and nature –  every individual is in one way or another contributing to the overall energy that transmits throughout the island. We have learnt over the years that if we surrender to the culture and their way of living, we can find ourselves being a part of something bigger. The ego and identity dissipates in the context of community. The more we respect the energy and culture here, the more we may find ourselves being held in the most unexpected ways.

Magic awaits us at every corner here in Bali. During a Balinese holiday this is especially felt. If you are blessed to be on this island during one of our holidays, allow yourself to be immersed in the ritual and magic of these special days. Speak with locals, take a spin around the villages, admire the penjors and take some time out to yourself to honor the departed. It is a beautiful occasion to do so.

For the ones not in Bali we would love to encourage to take this time to honor their own ancestors and lineage and make it a reflection on how this could look like in our every day lives. May it be flower offerings, lighting up candles, visiting grave sites, musical expression. Trust what calls you.

← Older Post Newer Post →

Leave a comment