All students who are here at the moment may feel blessed to be able to spend their time in Bali.
It is extra special to be here in Bali because this week, the Balinese will celebrate their biggest festival of the year, Galungan and Kuningan Day.
Galungan is a Balinese holiday celebrating the victory of ‘Dharma’ over ‘Adharma’, also known as the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’. It marks the time when the ancestral spirits visit the Earth. The last day of the celebration is Kuningan, 10 days after Galungan, when they return.
The date is calculated according to the 210-day Balinese calendar.
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. You will see that during this festival, all Balinese will return to their home village to spend their time with their family, and to help in the household by making offerings and food.
The most obvious sign of the celebrations are the penjor – bamboo poles weighed down by offerings suspended at the end and are usually decorated with fruit, coconut leaves, and flowers, and set up on the right of the entrance of every home. At each gate, one will also find small bamboo altars set up especially for the holiday, each one bearing woven palm-leaf offerings for the spirits. These penjor’s can’t be missed whilst driving around Bali.
During Galungan, a ceremony known as Ngelawang is performed in every village. Ngelawang is a ritual to expel evil and any negative spirits, which is performed by a “barong” – a divine protector in the form of a mythical beast. The barong is invited into houses as he makes his way through the village. His presence is meant to restore the balance of good and evil in the house. The residents of the house will pray before the dancing barong, who will afterwards give a piece of his fur as keepsake.
As one of the most important religious activities on the island, Galungan provides the best opportunity to observe the most fascinating part of Bali’s unique culture.