JIMBARAN, Bali – Bali is preparing for the most important day of the year on 29 August, when each family’s ancestral spirits will return to the family home for a 10-day celebration of good over evil. Known as ‘Galungan’, meaning ‘when the Dharma (good) is winning’, this festival occurs every 210 days and lasts for 10 days. During this time, it is believed that the Balinese gods visit their living descendants on Earth to mark this occasion with ceremonies involving elaborate offerings, food and dance, and depart on the tenth day, which is known as ‘Kuningan’.
It is a wonderful time to be in Bali to experience the Balinese-Hindu culture, with ceremonies across the island. Travelers will witness villagers, all dressed up in their white Balinese attire, making gigantic colorful offerings of fruits and food and building penjor (tall decorated bamboo poles). Markets will be a frenzied sea of activity in preparation for elaborate feasts.
All of this activity is in special honor of the family ancestral gods, who are believed to be intimately linked with the living members of the family. The sanggah (family temples dedicated to ancestral spirits) are elaborately decorated, offerings are made for all shrines in the house, and prayers made for security and happiness. Visits are also made to the village temple to make offerings for the whole village. The festivities come to an end only when the gods depart to heaven on Kuningan day, which this year falls on 8 September.
Most Balinese, follow this tradition by starting the holiday with Penyekeban, the day when villagers start ripening bananas for Galungan offerings. The next day, Penyajaan, they start to make rice cakes for their offerings and then the following day, Penampahan is when animals such as pigs and chickens are sacrificed for use in offerings, and penjors are erected.
On the day of Galungan, most Balinese will try to return to their ancestral home. The fact that they might work in another part of the island does not limit them to travel back home. The day after Galungan is a time for a real holiday, as Balinese Hindus visits friends and continue to mark this very historic day in which the power of darkness was destroyed by the forces of good.