The Balinese religious holiday of Galungan is celebrated this year in the first week of January, which is paramount in the Hindu calendar marking the victory of dharma over adharma: the triumph of good over evil, when the spirits of relatives visit their ancestral homes. These spirits depart 10 days later on the holiday of Kuningan.
The Balinese welcome their ancestors through prayers and offerings all around their homes and villages. This is a magical time in Bali as buildings and streets are decorated with bamboo poles (penjor) in beautiful traditional designs made out of leaves and plants with suspended decorations.
This is a jubilant week, with plenty of food being prepared by all households, a gathering of friends and relatives, all dressed in their finest traditional clothes, with families visiting temples to pray together. Schools are closed for 2 weeks, so the whole family can enjoy these important celebrations.
From a visitor’s perspective, the streets will be lined with penjor poles, offerings on display with large gatherings at temples, so expect to see processions, with streets closed as temples overspill, all Balinese in traditional dress: women wear either white or colorful Kebaya (the equivalent of a dress shirt), usually in lace, with a corset of similar material below, paired with a batik Kamben which is similar to a sarong, with a vibrant sash round their waists, and flowers in their hair. The men wear white shirts and batik or songket (hand-woven silk with delicate silver and gold patterns) kamben. To top it all off, men wear a headdress called Udeng, usually in white to fit the reverent, but is often all sorts of designs and fabrics.
The days leading up to Galungan are reserved for families to prepare specific offerings such as banana delicacies, multi-colored rice cakes, and the day before, pigs and chickens are slaughtered not only as sacrifices, but food too (not a happy time for pigs), but try to remember this tradition has been ongoing forever.
Legend has it that during the Majapahit era, the terrible king Mayadenawa fought the Balinese, destroying temples and outlawing worship. The Hindu people appealed to the gods, to which the God Indra responded by pursuing Mayadenawa into battle, which in due course he won. Victory day is Galungan, hence the sacrifice of pigs and chickens in celebration. It was the 10th day after Indra’s triumph that the announcement was made public. Kuningan is celebrated on this day, where the Balinese dress in yellow commemorating the god Wisnu, protector of the Hindu religion.
Offerings or Endogan, mean a bag of provisions for the spirits: you will often see these pockets on pavements by temples, outside shops, and homes (try not to step on them), usually made from coconut leaves, whose contents help the ancestors on their journey around earth and heaven, consisting of flowers, seeds, candy, fruit, and rice, sometimes even a cigarette.
On the day of Galungan (January 4th), time is spent with families, jointly praying at the temple, respecting their ancestors, and at the same time each person will renew their commitment to being a better individual every day. The devoted may start at 3am, and others may start at 6am, sitting in rows, praying together with the sound of Genta (hand-held bells), prettily serenading.
The day after Galungan is dedicated to families, with relatives being visited across Bali. If traffic has been hectic before, expect many Balinese to be now also on the move visiting sights and spending this special day together.
10 Days after Galungan (January 14th), the spirits return to heaven, marked by more prayers and offerings, while the day after is devoted to family fun.
If you have missed the January Galungan, it will all be repeated in 6 months on the 2nd August 2023. The next major event is Nyepi day Bali 2023 which is the day of silence in Bali, held on 2 nd March.
Guests staying at 4 bedroom Villa Kinaree and 6 bedroom Villa Kinara, will see the penjor dotted around the property. Talk to our staff, who may welcome you to their villages or at least show you some of the admirable spectacles to be seen at this special time of year. Our villa manager will happily explain all the traditions that make Galungan and Kuningan such an amazing time of year. Our luxury Seminyak villas offer the perfect jumping-off spot to see all of these wonderful traditions, with our awesome staff offering insights into their history.