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Hinduism in Bali: Know about Galungan and Kuningan

On this day, spirits of the ancestors return from heaven

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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