Galungan and Kuningan: Gods' return to Bali

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Galungan and Kuningan: Gods' return to Bali

Bali is an island with unique beliefs and a culture that’s so crucial to the feel of the place that it shows through the several festivities and occasions that are observed so frequently in Bali. One of the more important ones of these occasions is Galungan and Kuningan, during which celebrations are grand and you will get to wind through the fascinating attractions in Bali alongside the presence of gods on this special occasion

Galungan and Kuningan: Gods' return to Bali

 

Significance of Galungan

The festivity of Galungan is one of those times in Bali when celebrations are on a big scale, and the extended length of Galungan holidays allows the people of Bali to get ample time to immerse themselves in the spirit of joy and togetherness, sprinkled by religious ceremonies native and significant to the culture of Bali and to Hinduism, the predominant religion in Bali.

Galungan celebrations in Bali range across all of the villages and towns and across all religions beyond Hinduism. This is because Galungan and Kuningan are observed not in religious nature but to celebrate beliefs that are native to the essence of Bali itself. Therefore, the festive vibe is universal throughout Bali and grand. Temples and some public places are beautifully decorated, especially with penjors that are typical of Galungan celebrations in Bali, which makes for a pleasant and beautiful reminder of the festivity no matter where you choose to visit in Bali during Galungan and Kuningan.

Besides, the festivity is marked by people of Bali spending quality time together with their loved ones like family and friends, by visiting temples, parks, etc., while dressing up in elegant and traditional attires and eating good food at restaurants and at home. This makes for a very lively and soothing vibe for tourists to find during this time, making it even the best time to visit Bali according to some.

 

Why is Galungan celebrated in Bali?

One of the core concepts of Balinese culture is belief in the coexistence of good and evil. However, as the saying goes, just like light outshines darkness, the people of Bali firmly believe in the inevitable victory of good over evil, or of dharma over adharma as they like to call it. This is the very concept celebrated during Galungan in Bali.

 

The legend related to Galungan

This belief exists even in the form of an ancient story in Balinese culture. Legend in Bali goes that a local king named Mayadenawa enforced strict policies to ensure the eradication of Hindu religion. As king he was of totalitarian nature and didn’t want the people of Bali to embrace religion and the pious ways of life associated with religion. This stands as the symbol of adharma.

Eventually the god Indra who is regarded as the king of gods defeated king Mayadenawa in a fierce battle ar Tampaksiring. This story serves as the literal parallel of the triumph of dharma against adharma. Even though Mayadenawa was extremely powerful and even undefeatable, just like darkness itself, and even though Mayadenawa tried every method to escape like turning himself into stone, Indra had the advantage of good or dharma and was able to successfully kill Mayadenawa, resulting in the end of adharma. This signifies that even though light and dark will always both exist, it is not possible for darkness (evil) to escape light (good. In fact, there even stands the Tirta Empul Temple at the exact site where Mayadenawa is said to have been killed as a permanent mark of this fact.

Galungan and Kuningan: Gods' return to Bali
Tirta Empul Temple, Bali

 

Even though Galungam is celebrated to mark this very event in the Bali timeline, in a larger sense it revolves around the message of good defeating evil, Therefore, Galungan celebrations in Bali are significant because of their relevance with this one of the core concepts of Balinese culture.

 

Belief associated with modern Galungan celebration in Bali

Since Galungam was the time when the ancient people back then were finally able to adopt the pious path of dharma and thereby escape adharma, it is said that during Galungan these ancient spirits of the island revisit Bali in rejoice, in order to blend in with the piousness that drowns out all evil in Bali in general and especially during this occasion. Kuningan being the last day of the festivities, is the time when these very spirits depart for their true abode high up in the skies, where they had come from on Galungan day.

Which god is worshipped during Galungan in Bali

Ida Sang Hyang Widi who is the god of Creation is the Balinese god that is worshipped during the time of Galungan. Since the people of Bali firmly believe that good and evil are both the inevitable and direct by-products of creation, hand dharma and adharma are inherent to creation itself by its very nature, it makes sense that Galungan is dedicated to the Balinese god  of Creation.

 

When is Galungan celebrated?

Galungan is celebrated annually but as per the traditional Balinese lunar-based calendar which is 210 days long, instead of the 365 days Gregorian calendar that is followed internationally. Galungan celebrations in Bali are held on the 11th week of the Balinese calendar every year.

Galungan in 2021:

The upcoming Galungam is set to fall on April 14, 2021. Since Kuningan is celebrated on the 10th day after Galungan, the Kuningan associated with the upcoming Galungan will be celebrated on April 24, 2021.

Since Galungan is celebrated as per the shorter-length Balinese calendar, there are two Galungam festivities celebrated every year. Thereby, Galungam and Kuningan are also going to be celebrated on November 10, 2021 and November 20, 2021 respectively,

 

Rites of Galungan

Several rites, rituals and practises collectively make up how Galungan is celebrated. Since ancestral spirits of the land are said to be revisiting during the time of Galungan till the day of Kuningan, Balinese people max out on their hospitable nature that is inherent to them thanks to the local prevalent culture. They do so by decorating their houses and placing offerings of fruits, etc., around the house, and even by praying to these ancestral spirits they believe will be revisiting the house.

Long bamboo sticks are stuck into the ground and offerings of food are hung at the drooping ends of these bamboo. These bamboo poles are known as penjor in Bali, are are set up by people around their houses as well as publicly. This is to ensure that the deceased ancestral spirits of the land that roam Bali during Galungan and Kuningan will find these around as a sign of gratitude expressed by Balinese people through offerings on these bamboo poles.

Galungan and Kuningan: Gods' return to Bali
Penjor: A long bamboo that is decorated and holds an offering to the deities hanging off of its end

 

  • The use of bamboo is significant here as bamboo has always been vital to Bali since ancient times, and so it is crucial to place these offerings in manners that will appeal to these ancient spirits and be identifiable to them.
  • Sometimes these penjors can even look towering to the passerby, which is significant because ancestral spirits are said to reside high up in the heavens. Therefore, reaching up to these spirits is critical when showing gratitude by7 placing gifts on these penjors.
  • More often than not, it is the women of the house that perform the task of carrying to these spots offerings in a basket that they balance on the top of their heads, which makes for a spectacular sight to witness. However, there is no restriction of any sort in this regard and only prevalence.

Several dance performances and rituals can be seen being carried around Bali during Galungan in Bali. Music that is traditional to the island and even tribal Bali music is played more frequently than ever during Galungan celebrations in Bali.

Galungan and Kuningan: Gods' return to Bali
Galungan celebrations in Bali

 

 

Schedule of Galungan celebrations in Bali

3 days prior: Penyekeban

On this day green bananas are placed inside clay pots in order to speed up their ripening process in preparation of offerings for Galungan day. In fact, the word penyekeban literally means “to cover up”, which is a direct reference to this very practice.

2 days prior: Penyajaan

On this day people stay in and make fried rice cakes using rice dough. These rice cakes are locally known as jaja and are consumed on Galangan day.

1 day prior: Penampahan

On this day either people sacrifice either a pig or a chicken in a ceremonious fashion. The sacrificial pig or chicken is blessed beforehand, so when the food prepared is feasted upon, it is deemed to be sacred in consumption. The feast also includes lawar, a kind of spicy salad and sate.

Galungan Day:

This is the main occasion of the festivity, and the day when the ancient spirits are said to descend onto the lands and return. People in Bali seek to appease these spirits by displaying hospitality in the form of offerings and extravagantly beautiful decorations set up at temples and houses. It is customary for people to dress up in their finest traditional clothing, in the same fashion as people sometimes tend to wear their best clothing when a guest visits. People go to temples and offer prayers and items of food \that they have prepared specially for the occasion.

Galungan and Kuningan: Gods' return to Bali
Prayers being offerred on Galungan day

The next day: Manis Galungan

On this day, people spend quality time with their family, either by staying inside together or going out to places like botanical parks, fo0od places, etc., together.

Galungan and Kuningan: Gods' return to Bali
Family eating a ferast together on the occasion of Galungan celebrations

When is Kuningan celebrated?

Kuningan is observed 10 days after the Galungan day. It is the day when the ancestral spirits who have revisited earth return back to the heavens. A final farewell is bid to these deceased spirits by people by showing honor and gratitude for gratifying us with their ever-significant presence on earth. In addition, the Supreme god Sang Hyang Widi is said to arrive on land on this day and give b\his blessings unto the people of Bali. After Galungan day this is the day when religious proceedings are carried forth.

Day after: Manis Kuningan

There are no religious ceremonies on this day, but the festive atmosphere prevails as people spend time in their hometowns with their family and friends, making for a lively yet peaceful vibe around Bali on this day before people get back to their lives.

 

Arguably the best time to visit Bali

Around the entire duration of the festivity, the whole of Bali is in a spirit of holiday and celebration. People love spending time with family and friends, either inside homes or by venturing outside or even out of town to neighboring parks or hills. It will be near impossible to avoid this lively and enthused sense of exuberation, and even harder to not enjoy it. No matter the weather in Bali during a Galungan and Kuningan celebration, the celebration will find a way to manifest in beautiful and grand fashions and blend in with the local atmosphere of the time and make the occasion well worth visiting Bali for, for international tourists as well. As a bonus to your experience, it is one of the few festivities in Bali that last as long as 11 days so you could rest assured that your entire stay will be marked by something special to always look forward to. This makes the Galungan celebrations probably the best time to visit Bali.

In 2021, Galungan and Kuningan will be celebrated in the month of April and then in November. In the month of April, weather in Bali is often rainy, and so the tourist rush is relatively lower during this time. If you want to avoid the traffic jams that frequent the streets of Bali then this will definitely be the best time to visit Bali for you as long as you are prepared for dealing with the rain through raincoats, hiring taxis, etc. However, in case you wish to avoid the possibility of heavy rains, then the Galungan season in November 2021 is certainly when you should plan your trip as the weather in Bali is less humid and less warm during this time of the year.

 

How to reach Bali

By air: Due to the ever-increasing boom of tourism in Bali, the Denpasar airport of Bali, or the Ngurah Rai Airport, has flights inbound from all major international destinations including cities like Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata in India on a day-to-day basis. Flights from Delhi to Denpasar in Bali take a travel time of around 14 hours.

Once in Bali, you will be easily available to travel to the different areas in Bali like Seminyak, Ubud, etc., thanks to the small size of the island. However, due to the frequent traffic jams in Bali, it is highly advisable to:

  1. Switch from one hotel area to another every few days as you cover the different areas of Bali during your trip.
  2. Rent a motorcycle from your hotel or place of accommodation as they are readily available and will make your trip highly convenient.

 

Places to stay in Bali

Accommodation is relatively cheap in Bali for tourists. This is in lieu of the fact that Bali does not intend to capitalize on tourism for its economy. Instead, the purpose of tourism for Bali is to showcase the true spirit of Bali and what Bali is about and the gracefulness of its culture to the rest of the world, as Balinese people take a lot of pirde in the culture of Bali.

In case you are comfortable with staying at shared lodging for international tourists, there are several homestay places to stay in Bali that offer locally made homemade food. an overnight stay can cost you as less as INR 250-300. In case you wish to immerse yourself in the feel of Galungan and Kuningan, staying at such homestays is probably the wisest choice because you will be able to get the true and original experience of Galunga celebrations in Bali here.

Galungan and Kuningan: Gods' return to Bali
An affordable but decent lodging facility in Bali

 

Mid-budget hotels will almost always offer pool facilities, and a number of villa or resort style hotels will be on the offing too. An example of this is The Hamsa Resort in Kabupaten region of Bali, which will cost you INR 1,600-2,000 for an overnight stay. One of the most luxurious places to stay in Bali is The Hanging Gardens of Bali, which is built along forested slopes in a very grand fashion and exubing the feel of Bali in its architecture, and it offers pools, dining, villas and resort-facilities. Staying here will cost you around INR 33,000.

 

When victory prevails, Bali's charm prevails

Galungan and K8uningan are celebrations rooted in the Balinese belief of the victory of good over evil. Not only is this a very charming concept in itself, the number of festivities carried out throughout Bali around Galungan holidays in Bali result in Bali's inherent charm prevailing as well, as the spirit of Bali is brought to life in full and lively bloom with an environment whose aura is quite the relishable one especially if you are a tourist in Bali. All in all, if you decide to visit Bali during Galungan and Kuningan festivities then you are sure to leave with a plethora of memories that you are going to want to re-enliven over and over by getting another taste of this unique and immersive experience.


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FAQs

Galungan day is celebrated to mark the occasion when the evil king Mayadenawa who forbid the practice of Hindu religion in Bali was defeated by Indra, the king of the gods. Therefore, it signifies and celebrates the victory of dharma or good over adharma or evil. It is said to be the day when deceased ancestral spirits of Bali revisit the lands from the home in heaven.
Kuningan day is observed to mark the day when the ancient spirits of Bali return for their true abode in heaven, ten days after Galungan day in Bali.
Even though Galungan and Kuningan are part of the same festivity, they are different days observed and have different relevance with the overall celebration. Kuningan falls 10 days after Galungan day, although they both share the fact they have religious religious context to them.
Galungan day is celebrated as per the 210 days long Balinese calendar and will be celebrated next on April 14, 2021 and then on November 10, 2021.
Kuningan day is next going to be celebrated on April 24, 2021 and then on November 20, 2021, as it is observed 10 days after Galungan day.
The Supreme god or the god of creation, named Sang Hyang Widi, is the god associated with Galungan and Kuningan festivities, as good and evil are both inevitable and crucial products of creation and inherent to everything part of creation. However, the god isn't worshipped per se during the festivities. Ancestral spirits of the land of Bali are said to return to Bali on this day and so the celebration is aimed at being hospitable to them and the overall vibe around Bali. Sang Hyang Widi is said to give his blessings on Kuningan day.
People give offerings of fruit (especially banana) and flowers to the ancestral spirits of the lands their homes are built on by placing them around, in order to be welcoming to them, on Galungan day.
Kuningan day is observed mostly by people expected to be in a mood of introspection while maintaining the holiday spirit of the festival. The following day people usually spend time with family and close friends before getting back to life and routine.
Galungan day and Kuningan day are celebrated throughout Bali. People observe the festivities and celebrations at home but temples are decorated and a site of attraction as well. Besides, public places like parks and restaurants are host to people looking to spend time with family or friends to celebrate the occasion with liveliness and peacefulness.
Even though you will be able to procure decent and even luxurious hotel facilities in Bali at relatively cheaper prices, staying at one of the cheaper homestays or shared lodging facilities will allow you to immerse yourself in the true essence of the Galungan festivities in Bali, as a major theme of the celebration is spending time with family and friends. These accomodation facilities start at INR 250-300 per night.
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TrueHAB Admin
Last Updated : Jan 15,2021
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