Galungan and Kuningan Day

Every 210 days the whole island of Bali sprouts flimsy bamboo poles, known as “penjor,” an unmistakable sign that Galungan fever is just about to kick in. Adorned with fruit, flowers and coconut leaves, these tall poles are found on every byway and highway and outside virtually every Balinese home, fluttering aimlessly in the breeze.

Galungan is a unique 10 day celebration commemorating good over evil in typically melodramatic style. Balinese mythology is colorful to say the least and the story behind Galungan takes it to a whole new level. Briefly, it involves a shape-shifting evil giant, rivers of blood and a year-long battle royal between the Gods. During Galungan the Godly spirits return to earth and expect to be welcomed and entertained with important Balinese rituals and extravagant feasts.

Kuningan is the final day of the festival which brings proceedings to a close. It is all a much regimented occasion where every member of the household has specific tasks to perform and dressed in their “Sunday best” finery. The preceding days are all full of feverish activity – cooking, cleaning and making offerings.

Only if you go native staying in a rural village or in a small family home stay do you see all the complicated preparations and hectic activity taking place behind the scene, although even in busy resorts such as Kuta, it’s virtually impossible to escape Kuningan fever.

On Galungan day itself (always the Wednesday) it’s a time for families; your favorite bartender or the girl who cleans your hotel room each morning will have headed off home to the ancestral village at dawn to spend time with the folks. After a full day of prayers, a few petty family quarrels and non stop eating, it’s back to relative normality with perhaps a family stroll into the paddy fields for a picnic. Villages throughout the island celebrate the post-Galungan period in their own peculiar way.

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. A number of days around the Kuningan day have special names, and are marked by the organization of particular activities.

Name of day Activities
3 days before Penyekeban Cooking of bananas for offerings
2 days before Penyajaan Making of jaja (fried rice cakes)
1 day before Penampahan Slaughtering of pigs and turtles for feasts
1 day after Manis Galungan Visiting family
10 days after Kuningan Prayers, offerings - spirits return to heaven
11 days after Manis Kuningan Fun

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