GALUNGAN & KUNINGAN
Galungan is a Balinese holiday celebrating the victory of dharma (good) over adharma (evil). It marks the time when the ancestral spirits visit the Earth. The last day of the celebration is Kuningan, when they return to heaven. The date is calculated according to the 210-day Balinese calendar. It is similar to Diwali, celebrated by Hindus in other parts of the world.
Galungan marks the beginning of the most important recurring religious ceremonies. The spirits of deceased relatives who have died and been cremated return to visit their former homes, and the current inhabitants have a responsibility to be hospitable through prayers and offerings. The most obvious sign of the celebrations are the penjor - bamboo poles with offerings suspended at the end. These are installed by the side of roads. A number of days around Galungan have special names, which are marked by particular activities.
Penyekeban: Cooking of bananas for offerings
(3 days prior Galungan)
Penyajaan: Making of jaja (fried rice cakes)
(2 days prior)
Penampahan: Slaughtering of pigs or chicken for feasts
(1 day prior)
Manis Galungan: Visiting family
(1 day after)
Kuningan: Prayers, offerings - spirits return to heaven
(10 days after)
Manis Kuningan: Fun
(11 days after)
Galungan is when Balinese Hindus commemorate the legendary battle of good versus evil, or the triumph of the spread of Hinduism in Bali. Offerings and prayers take place at family shrines and village temples on April 5. The eve, April 4, sees all Balinese households busy in preparations, by decorating curved bamboo poles with elements of harvests and natural produce, such as rice, fruit, coconuts, and leaves. These 'penjor' poles symbolize blessing by Mother Nature. These ornamental bamboo poles provide a unique sight, lining every road throughout Bali. The following day, Umanis Galungan, is a day for friendly visits to neighbours and relatives.
This year the Galungan festivities start on a Tuesday on April 4 and November 1, when bamboo poles decorated with young coconut leaf decorations line the streets all over Bali. This is a unique welcome to Bali if you happen to be on the island around this time, and usually lasts until Kuningan, another associated observance that comes 10 days after on April 15 and November 11. Traditionally, Galungan day sees the slaughtering of pigs for communal feasts, as well as baking traditional rice cakes and erecting iconic 'penjor' bamboo poles. These intricately decorated poles, naturally curved at the top, comprise harvest items such as rice, fruits, coconuts and coconut leaves. The men of the households erect their ‘artwork’ at each household gate on the eve, resulting in an impressive view throughout all village roads. Celebrants in traditional attire attend temple ceremonies with their families, bringing with them offerings of fruits to temples and family shrines – which they share and enjoy after prayers.
The celebration climaxes on Wednesday, April 5 and November 2, when people put on their finest clothes to visit family and temples. The day of Galungan is important for the Balinese, similar to a new year, when everyone returns to their families and home villages. The following Thursdays, Manis Galungan, like Boxing Day, is a day to visit friends and relatives or for fun family trips.
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. The Kuningan celebrations are most significant at Sakenan Temple on Serangan Island, southern Denpasar, which coincidentally celebrates its piodalan temple anniversary peak celebrations on the same day. The occasion features a series of sacred dance performances and rituals, with pilgrims attending from all over the island.
HISTORY AND LEGEND
As local legend goes, Galungan commemorates a Balinese victory that involves the central figures of Indra (the Hindu god of thunder, rain and lightning) and the Balinese king, known as Mayadenawa, who denied his subjects the worship of Hinduism. So powerful was the king that no one could overcome him. The conquest of Java's Majapahit army back then had little effect. Battles ensued until finally Indra descended from the heavens to defeat the king.
The battle raged in Tampaksiring, Gianyar, where the king was finally subdued. While under siege, he tried to escape by various ways including via supernatural means such as turning into a statue, a stone, and a wild boar. He easily fooled the troops, but not Indra. Mayadenawa then retreated to the jungle leaving behind disguised footsteps, hoping his assailants would not easily track them. Indra's magic arrow put an end to the rebel king.
The legendary site where he bled to death became a freshwater spring, the current-day site of the Tirta Empul Temple. The king’s slanting footprints gave the name to the valley area, later pronounced as Tampak Siring – ‘slanting footprints’. The Balinese and Majapahit armies honoured Indra, commemorating the defeat of the king as Galungan, the day of victory of dharma over adharma. The decorative bamboo poles signify upheld Hinduism and wisdom.
So traumatized were the people that they were not easily convinced of the king’s defeat, believing that he had probably used his magic to turn into a statue, tree or even another animal. To overcome public fear, an official announcement of the defeat was made 10 days later, commemorated as the day of Kuningan, which has two meanings, ‘to announce’ and ‘of yellow’.