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Bali's Eleven Days of Annual Festivity:  The Blessed Season of Galungan and Kuningan

Bali's Eleven Days of Annual Festivity: The Blessed Season of Galungan and Kuningan

Galungan to Kuningan is one of the most lovely periods of time on the island where traditionally all attention is focused on the good, the positive as well as gratitude.  The Galungan and Kuningan season is undoubtedly one of the most festive annual religious celebrations for the Balinese Hindus. And annual here stands for one Balinese year, using the Wuku Calendar, which in the Gregorian calendar equals to 7 months.  Galungan always falls on a Wednesday and Kuningan follows on the next week’s Saturday. This year’s Galungan falls on May 21, while Kuningan, well do the math, exactly 9 days after.


Galungan is about all that’s happy and positive. It’s about Sang Hyang Widi coming down to earth, it’s about the ancestors coming down to visit, it’s about the victory of Dharma (good) against the Adharma (evil) and over all just like any other traditional or religious holiday seasons it is also a lot about spending time with your family and loved ones. Thus, the purpose of the rituals held during these days has a lot to do with the welcoming of the ancestors who will stay around for 11 days starting from Galungan until noon on Kuningan which marks the end of the festive spiritual season.  We can say that the rituals and offerings presented on Kuningan are meant to show respect to the ancestors before they return to their own world.


During this holiday season the island is transformed to an even prettier version of itself, with authentic Balinese decorations proud and tall, literally on the entire island. Tall bamboo poles with beautiful ornaments made of young coconut leaves, fruits and colorful natural items are placed in front of each and every Hindu household in the most modern places up until the most remote village somewhere by the foot of the mountains or dry areas in the middle of nowhere.  


On both Galungan and Kuningan you can truly enjoy a much more colorful face of the island brought by the distinct particular vibrant and tradition yet chic touch of the offerings of all sorts that you can see all around, way more than you can ever image to see on a regular day. People walk around in groups, women wearing lace and silk traditional costumes of all kinds of pretty colors, and men wearing their headbands, somehow all showing their totality being part of this celebration. Both Galungan and Kuningan temple ceremonies are held in the morning until before noon.  After that most of the happenings take place in the privacy of the private residences.


The day before Galungan and Kuningan are called Penampahan Galungan and Penampahan Kuningan, in which ‘penampahan’ literally translates into “slaughter”, marking  D-day minus one as the day where everything related to the slaughter of pigs will be done, mainly handled by the men both in family compounds and communities.


The day after Galungan and Kuningan are called Manis Galungan and Manis Kuningan. These days are always associated with time to catch up with family members and relatives as most Balinese people spend these holidays in their hometown. There are no particular religious ceremonies this day however you can definitely still feel the vibes of the previous day.


Overall, this ten day celebration of the victory of the good against evil, the visit of the ancestors to their descendants, as well as gratitude to the creator is just remarkable. Being there to experience it first hand for the very first time is just priceless! Hope you’ll be around!

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November, 2017
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