September 16/26, 2020
Galungan is a one of the most important holidays for the Balinese people, second only to Nyepi. This is a time of great celebration, transforming the island into a festive, colourful and bustling haven of activity.
Galungan celebrates the creation of the universe and the triumph of dharma (good) over adharma (evil). It also marks the beginning of the 210 day Balinese Pawukon year.
Festivities start on Hari Raya Galungan which celebrates deities and ancestral spirits of deceased relatives descending to Earth and lasts 10 days until the Kuningan celebration, which symbolizes the deities ascending to the heavens again. The spirits of deceased relatives return to visit their former homes and the Balinese have a responsibility to be hospitable and welcoming to their past ancestors through prayers and offerings in their homes.
Temples and houses are decorated with colourful features and “penjor” – tall, finely decorated bamboo trunks with corn cobs, plaited palm leaves, yellow or white fabric and young coconut shoots and offerings suspended from them, which line roads and houses. The tallest penjors symbolize mountains which are considered the best places for prayers as they are closest to the gods.
Women carry fruits on their heads in baskets to provide as offerings; creating a truly spectacular scene.
A number of days around Galungan and Kuningan have special names and are marked by the organization of particular activities. Galungan begins on the Wednesday of Dunggulan, the 11th week of the 210-day pawukon calendar. All schools across Bali are closed for 2 weeks for the holidays.
Hari Raya Galungan is the climax of Galungan; the Balinese put on their finest traditional clothes and attend temple prayers with their families and bring offerings to share. It is a day to remind themselves of the long lineage of their ancestors and the beautiful story they are a part of. The Balinese reconnect and renew their commitment to trying to make tomorrow a better day as well as trying to make themselves better each day. Local temples are bustling and colorful on Galungan; a beautiful time to observe the most fascinating part of Bali’s spiritual culture.
The celebration’s preparations start on the previous Monday, with the preparation of cakes that will be used as offerings. On the Tuesday, men prepare a festive dinner (pigs are slaughtered to make kebabs and blood sausages) and women prepare offerings.
If you are fortunate enough to be in Bali during this time, you will be able to observe beautiful ceremonies and truly feel the spirit of the holiday.
Due to the current Covid-19 pandemic, it is likely that the Bali government may limit large gatherings this year. Please check ahead of time if you plan on travelling to specific areas.