As a Balinese, I feel incredibly excited almost every 6 months, when two big holy days which are Galungan and Kuningan come. When I was younger, I’d never missed any cultural moments every single Galungan and Kuningan I had celebrated. But unfortunately in the past few years, it’s hard to get my days off instead of helping my mom prepare offerings.

Well basically, Galungan and Kuningan is the most important feast for us, Balinese Hindus, a celebration to honor the creator of the universe (Ida Sang Hyang Widhi, which is a name to mention our God) and the spirits of the honored ancestors. These festivals that occur once in the 210-day in the Pawukon (cycle of days on the Balinese calendar), symbolize the victory of good (Dharma) over evil (Adharma), mark the time of the year when the spirits of the ancestors are believed to visit the earth so that encourage the Balinese to show their gratitude to the creator and sainted ancestors.

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Basically, here are several activities before celebrating Galungan on Wednesday:

Penyekeban

Penyekeban takes place three days before Galungan Day, at Redite Pahing, the Sunday of the 11th week of the Balinese Pawukon calendar, Dungulan. Fruits that will be used for the Galungan offerings are stored in a special place so that it will be ripe in time for Galungan Day. That what we usually do on this Penyekeban day.

This word, penyekeban, not only has literal meaning as ripening fruit, but also has a (more important) symbolic meaning in respect with the Bhuana Alit (the inner world of the individual human being). In spiritual sense the individual, just like the fruits, has to ripen in order to be in a position to siege over Adharma, the selfish urges, desires, and actions of the ego.

Penyajaan

On Monday (Soma), the second activity is Penyajaan is derived from ‘jaja’ which means ‘cake’. On this day, various cakes in shapes and colors are made for offerings.

Penampahan

The day before Galungan (and also Kuningan), which is Tuesday and Friday on the next week (exactly the day before Kuningan), all of family members is seen to be busily preparing offerings and cooking for the next day. I, mom, and my 2 sisters have been busy for days before creating beautifully woven ‘Banten‘ (offerings made from young coconut fronds) while Dad wakes up well before dawn to join with neighbours to slaughter a pig and chicken unlucky enough to be chosen to help celebrate this occasion.

The finely diced pork is mashed to a pulp with a grinding stone, and moulded onto sate sticks that have been already prepared by whittling small sticks of bamboo. *yumm*

Chickens may also be chosen from the collection of free-range chickens that roam around the house compound. Delicate combinations of various vegetables, herbs and spices are also prepared to make up a selection of ‘lawar’ dishes. Once all the cooking is done, it is time for ‘megibung‘! (Other way to say eating in a large trays with whole family members as my hometown culture).  After feeling stuffed, we, the women, continue to be kept busy with the preparations of the many offerings to be made at the family temple on the day of Galungan, and Dad also have another job to do this day, once the cooking is finished. A long bamboo pole with young coconut leaf decorations, naturally curved at the top, comprise harvest items such as rice, fruits, coconuts and coconut leaves, we called it ‘Penjor‘, is made to decorate the entrance to the family compound. By late Tuesday afternoon all over Bali the visitor can see these decorative poles creating a very festive atmosphere in the street and usually lasts until Kuningan.

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Colorful Penjors

Galungan & Kuningan

On these holiest days, my family usually offer sacrifices of food, fruits, crops, and flowers as the offerings as an expression of gratitude and hopes for protection. We also pray and offered at local temples, which are packed with devotees bringing our offerings.

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Offerings or Banten
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This is a precious picture (I’m sure this taken about some decades ago) I found, where the women bring their high offerings. What a superwomen!
Modern ‘Pajegan’ these days…
Canang as one of the offerings

Some people believe that during the Galungan until Kuningan period the deified ancestors of the family descend to their former homes. So they must be suitably entertained and welcomed, and prayers and offerings must be made for them and offered at our own family temples. Those families who have ancestors that have not yet been cremated, but are still buried in the village cemetery, must make offerings at the graves.

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Praying at the Temple

Kuningan, on the other hand, marks the end of the 10-day festival. The ceremony surrounding Kuningan refers to special offerings made of yellow turmeric rice. Yellow is also the colour of the god Wisnu, the protector of the Hindu trinity.

Anyway, while the actual festivities are open to Balinese only, tourists who visit Bali during this holiday get an eyeful of the local color. It isn’t every day you will see richly-dressed women crossing the street to make food offerings to the local temple – and there’s something festive about the Penjor swaying in the wind everywhere you look!

Well, if you are interested to see the colorful of Bali during Galungan and Kuningan but you missed these festivals in 2016, here are the dates:

April 5 – April 15, 2017
November 1 – November 11, 2017
May 30 – June 9, 2018
December 26 – January 9, 2019
July 22 – August 3, 2019
February 19 – February 29, 2020
September 16 – September 26, 2020
April 14 – April 24, 2021

If you have Balinese Hindu friends, let’s say this words to them using Balinese language (which means Happy Galungan and Kuningan):

Thank you for reading, fellas!
Lots of love,