Wednesday December 12, 2018

Hinduism in Bali: Know about Galungan and Kuningan

On this day, spirits of the ancestors return from heaven

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Galungan and Kuningan Wikimedia Commons
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Wandering in the streets of Indonesia, one can truly feel the essence of celebrations through festivals. Be it temples, Homes or villages, one is likely to see a spectral display of processions or ceremonies going on. One of them is Galungan which lasts for 10 days with the day of Kuningan. According to Balinese Hinduism, Galungan is considered to be one of the most auspicious festivals in Balinese culture.

Brief History: Roots of Hinduism in Indonesia

According to the legend, Galungan is all about celebrating the victory of Lord Indra over the Balinese king, known as Mayadenawa. The Balinese king denied worship of Hinduism in his territory. Battles continued until finally Lord Indra (the Hindu god of rain and thunder) descended from heaven and defeated the king.

The legendary site where the rebel king was traced and killed by Indra’s magic arrow turned into a freshwater spring (currently also known as Tirta Empul Temple). Balinese armies honoured Indra, celebrating the defeat of the king as Galungan (the day of victory of dharma over adharma). An official death of the mighty king was declared 10 days later, also known as Kuningan (meaning ‘to announce’).The bamboo poles which adds to the beauty of this festival is a mark of upheld Hinduism.

Related article: How India has influenced Indonesia through ages

Balinese cultural display: It’s Galungan and Kuningan time

The 10 day period of Galungan is one of the most important festivals celebrated in Bali. The whole Island explodes into different shades of cultural display.

  • This is celebrated according to the 210-day Balinese calendar (known as Pawukon). Celebrations start in February and the whole schedule is repeated in the month of September again.
  • Preparations begin weeks in advance. It requires a significant amount of time and money for performing all the ceremonies.
  • Large decorative Bamboo poles (also known as Penjor) are put in front of homes and all over the island. Fruits, flowers, young coconut leaves and all another form of offerings are embedded with these poles.
  • On the eve, the men of households display their artistic works at each household gates. This leads to a captivating view throughout all roads.
  • On the final day, Kuningan is celebrated. Balinese believe that on this day spirits of the ancestors return from heaven. So, local Hindus perform rituals in order to entertain these returning spirits.
  • People wear their finest clothes and yellow turmeric rice is prepared. Various sacred dance performances and rituals are performed, attracting people from all over the island.
Bamboo offerings during Galungan Wikimedia Commons
Bamboo offerings during Galungan
Wikimedia Commons

Important dates: Before and after Galungan

  • 3 days before : Penyekeban – Covering of green bananas for ripening)
  • 2 days before : Penyajaan – Making of fried rice cakes (locally known as “Jaja”)
  • 1 day before : Penampahan – Slaughtering of animals (usually pigs)
  • Galungan Day : Visting temples, performing rituals, making offerings and prayers
  • 1 day after : Manis Galungan – Visiting friends, families and neighbours
  • 10 days after : Kuningan – Preparing yellow rice offerings and temples hopping.

Ngelawang Ceremony

This is another ceremony which occurs in villages during Galungan. This is performed by “Barong” (a mythical beast and protector). Accompanied by Balinese children and gamelan music, the Barong parades all over the village. It is believed that this restores the balance of good and evil. Offerings such as Canang sari are made as the Barong visits each home.

Barong dance Wikimedia Commons
Barong dance
Wikimedia Commons

 

During this festive season, one can feel the positive vibes emanating from all over the place. This is a great time for outsiders to pay a visit for the first time and have a taste of Balinese culture.

Prepared by Pritam. Pritam is a 3rd year engineering student in B.P. Poddar institute of management and technology, Kolkata. A simple person who tries to innovate and improvise himself. Twitter @pritam_gogreen

 

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  • Pragya Jha

    Balinese Hinduism is practiced by majority of population in Bali. Balinese Hindus worship a range of unique deities.

  • Maximus Decimus

    wow this is great ,Bharat & Indonesia are very rich cultural states flourishing on Hinduism ,

  • Akanksha Sharma

    Galungan celebrates the death of a legendary tyrant called Mayadenawa. It is believed that, during this 10 day period, all the gods come down to earth for the festivities.

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  • Pragya Jha

    Balinese Hinduism is practiced by majority of population in Bali. Balinese Hindus worship a range of unique deities.

  • Maximus Decimus

    wow this is great ,Bharat & Indonesia are very rich cultural states flourishing on Hinduism ,

  • Akanksha Sharma

    Galungan celebrates the death of a legendary tyrant called Mayadenawa. It is believed that, during this 10 day period, all the gods come down to earth for the festivities.

Next Story

Puja for The Spiritualism, Not for Vulgar Entertainment

The westerners practicing Hinduism have learned a pretty well from our "scriptures" and are becoming more spiritual while we just locked up those "holy books" only in the drawers of the altar. Thus we only love to shake our “butts to the boom-boom of Bollywood”.. right in front of the Gods' idols !!!

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Hinduism
he westerners practicing Hinduism have learned a pretty well from our "scriptures"

By Salil Gewali

Any auspicious days in Hinduism are expected to be observed with a complete purity of action and thought. The same holds true for other religions too. As per the Hindu scriptures, the believers are required to stay away from any kind of sense gratifications, particularly when the specific days are dedicated to Gods and Goddess such as Navratri, Laxmi Puja, Krishna Janmashtami, Shivaratri, to name a few. The pathway to devotion and spiritualism should not be “desecrated” by the blot of the brazen entertainment. The scriptures logically explain why it is antithetical, and its adverse consequences.

Hindusim
Incidentally, the Bhagavad Gita describes such situation as the rise of “tamasic vibes”.

 But, what a huge irony, rather a blasphemy that many people these days have started to choose the auspicious days of Gods to satisfy their base senses. Without a wee bit of regret, a certain class of people holds almost every auspicious day as the most “unmissable” occasion to booze with the friends, and what not, and stagger back home, lol! Such bizarre practices are fast catching now than ever.  Sadly, hardly any conscious people and spiritual organizations stand up and take the right measures to check such godless deviations.

What is quite unpleasant is that such a kind of unholy practices are often being facilitated by certain “Hindu intuitions” as well. On this past Laxmi Puja, the “propitious time” to perform the ritual had fallen between 6 PM to 7:53 PM. Yours truly decided to use that span of time for meditation. But hell broke loose. Apart from fireworks around, the Bollywood songs in high decibel burst forth from a certain Hindu institution quite frustrated the mission.

Hindusim
Sadhu Sanga Retreat, 2016

 One senior citizen laments – “Nothing could be irreligious than the fact that a favorable time for “puja” is also being used for the wrongful purposes. We rather expect the “Hindu institutions” to teach our children Bhajan, Kirtan, and other spiritual activities, not the loud and feverish parties and disturb others.”

Another college student adds “Having been much disturbed by the noise pollution, I have persuaded my parents to shift our place of residence to elsewhere, not at least near holy places with an unholy mission. I have started to see such institutions with the eyes of suspicion these says.” Is it that our institutions are unable to use their “discretion”, and as a result, they fail to differentiate between right and wrong?  One is deeply apprehensive that Bollywood songs and vulgar dances might as well be included as a part of the “puja ritual” as we have long accepted the fun of fireworks bursting as an integral part of Laxmi Puja which in fact is just an entrenched “misconception”.

Hinduism
Hinduism is expected to be observed with a complete purity of action

Needless to say, our roar for consumerism has almost drowned the whisper of inherent spiritualism. We are only just sending out the wrong messages. I’m afraid, the whole culture itself might be looked down with derision by other faiths. It might just become a subject of ridicule! It is no exaggeration, such negative notions against the “wrong practices” are all what we often read these days in several newspapers and social media. Do we want others to demean our profound spiritual heritage thus?  I believe it calls for a serious soul-searching.

Incidentally, the Bhagavad Gita describes such situation as the rise of “tamasic vibes”.  It warns in the strongest terms that mankind should absolutely be careful not to fall under the influence of any short-lived sense gratifications. Or else, our endeavor to “practice and preserve” the sanctity of a religion/spiritualism will be a futile exercise.

However, on the other hand, the westerners practicing Hinduism have learned a pretty well from our “scriptures” and are becoming more spiritual while we just locked up those “holy books” only in a drawer of the altar. Thus we only love to shake our “butts to the boom-boom of Bollywood”.. right in front of the Gods’ idols !!!

Salil Gewali is a well-known writer and author of ‘Great minds on India’.

Twitter:@SGewali.