Bali the Island of Gods with its thousands Temples with an amazing culture and landscaping is what attracts most people to Bali. In this blog post we will cover one of the most significant ceremonies in Bali – Galungan. On the next edition you can read about Kuningan here.
Bali appears unique and fascinating in many ways. According to the Balinese worldview, the existence of supernatural spheres is out of the question, because for them, the cosmos encompasses far more than the phenomena accessible to human senses. There is no clear separation between the earthly, natural world and magical, transcendent appearances, between good, divine powers and dark, demonic powers. Instead, in the Balinese concept, all these things and manifestations are interconnected in multiple layers, and the transitions are fluid. Everything is one, and that one is everything. Balinese feel like they wow into an overall cosmic concept, a sensitive balance between natural and divine, good and bad. For people living peacefully and happily, this cosmic balance must be preserved – This requires a variety of rituals, acts of sacrifice and ceremonial ceremonies, with which the dark powers are appeased, and the gods are weighed so that they can protect people.
What is the meaning of Galungan?
The festivals at which these acts culminate are of central importance, and this applies particularly to Galungan-Kuningan. Galungan is one of the most important holidays in the ritual calendar of the Balinese. After ten days, the Kuningan festival follows so that with the preparations and ceremonies on the days before and between the two dates, there is a whole period of, particularly holy days. Galungan is dedicated to the supreme divine being “Sang Hyang Widi,” the unspeakable, all-encompassing creator and master of the universe, an abstract “supernatural” of the Balinese. At the Galungan Festival, he and other deities and the divine ancestors descended from his seat on Mount Gunung Agung to the temples to stay with them during the ten-day festival period until Kuningan Day, until they returned to Soar sky.
Of course, myths and legends abound about such a prestigious festival. Tradition has it that the story of the victory over the despotic ruler and demon Maya Danawa is connected to the Galungan festival for the Balinese. According to old, sometimes historical tales, he had forbidden his subjects to pay homage to their gods and ancestors. With the help of God Indra and his divine allies, the people rebelled against it and defeated the king in a great battle. The people were now free and could shape their lives according to their own belief, Bali Hinduism (Agama Hindu Bali). In memory of this event, the souls of the fallen warriors of this battle, who have become divine heroes (Bhataras), are still honored on Kuningan Day. Thus Galungan also symbolizes the Balinese, the mythological victory of the gods against the powers of evil. It is the victory of Dharma, the “good” principle, over Adharma, the “evil” principle, which the world created again and again.
The actual Galungan festival, which is called “Hari Raya Galungan” in the Bali calendar, always falls on a Wednesday. The busy preparations for the festival begin a week beforehand, which is why it has a particular purpose. The days before Galungan are considered rather dangerous for the Balinese, because before the arrival of the gods and ancestors on earth, the evil demons, the Kalas and Bhutas, rise from the underworld to play badly with humans. During these critical days, therefore, we devotedly prepare for the great festival for the divine guests. The dedicated work intends to banish the danger that guests from the underworld face. Also, offerings must be made to the demons during the festive season to appease and banish them.
The festive preparations on the days before Galungen follow special traditional rules or a specific schedule, and all families in the village community take part. On Thursday before Galungan, the “Hari Sugian Java Day,” and on Friday, the “Hari Sugian Bali Day,” the utensils needed for the sacrifice ceremonies will be procured. The offerings include the “dodols,” small sweets that women prepare on Saturday, the “Hari Penodolan,” from rice flour. “Tape,” another little candy made from rice flour and yeast, is built on Sunday “Hari Penyekeban.” Monday “Hari Penyajaan,” the “Cake Day,” is intended to bake small, colorful rice cakes called “Jajan” as offerings for the house temple. They can also find in abundance on the markets, which are particularly lush before the festive season. Hari Penyajaan is also the day on which the pets are given special veneration before becoming “Hari Penampahan” on the following day as sacrificial animals.
One of the most striking festive preparations on the day before Galungan is setting up the “penjors” with which the village streets decoration. The penjors are long, decorated bamboo poles, the tips of which bend in a graceful arch towards the middle of the road. The offerings artfully crafted from palm leaves, fruits, and flowers. The rods of the Penjors are also decorated with filigree wickerwork and often with tufts of rice. They have their place on every doorstep and are symbolic thanks to Sang Hyang Widi for his kindness, who gives life and prosperity to people and lets the fruits grow in the fields. A small bamboo altar also placed in front of the entrance to each homestead. It’s woven from dark green views of the sugar palm and hell green living young coconut palms, mostly in a complicated pattern of geometric shapes. The “cili motif” is often depicted, a strongly stylized, human-like figure that the rice goddess Devi Sri embodies. In the jewelry of the Penjors and the rest of the Galungan decoration, the village streets offer a magical picture that alone turns a visit to Bali.
Galungan Day finally here
Wednesday is finally the main day of Galungan, “Hari Raya Galungan or Rahajeng Galungan.” Everyone tries to be at their home, at their family headquarters, to celebrate the festival with their relatives. Today the deities descend from the heavenly spheres into the temples and take a seat on the throne seats reserved for them to be celebrated by the people. During their stay on Earth until Kuningan Day, a varied festival program awaits them, which reveals all the cultural wealth and splendor of the Balinese. Typical for Bali, spiritual ritual and worldly pleasure merge seamlessly and, of course, have their place next to each other. On these days, the Balinese, dressed in their best clothes and festively adorned, are drawn to the family shrines and temples in the early morning, which is now very busy.