During the time of Galungan, the spiritual ambiance in Bali will be at its peak level. Gods and spirits of ancestors will come to visit earth.

Galungan is a celebration in which Balinese-Hindus celebrate the victory of dharma over adharma, which means that virtue overcomes evil. It marks the time when the ancestral spirits come to visit earth. Galungan is supposed to encourage the Balinese to show their gratitude to their sainted ancestors and the creator, Ida Sang Hyang Widi.

The Galungan ceremony marks the start of a series of important recurring ceremonies. For 10 consecutive days, the entire island will blossom with the many traditional decorations and offerings presented by the Balinese people. Furthermore, many small rituals and festivities will be held near the many temples on the island of the gods.

The 2017 Galungan ceremony starts on April 4, it’s a captivating cultural event which you don’t want to miss out on!


Three days of preparation

Three days before Galungan, there is a ceremony called ‘Penyekeban’ (to cover up), during this ceremony families start making preparations for Galungan. This is the day when green bananas will be covered up in clay pots to stimulate the ripening process.

The second day is called Penyajahan, – this ceremony marks a time of contemplation, but also to make the delicious Balinese cakes which are also known as jaja. These colored cakes are made with rice dough and are used in the offerings, but also to snack from during Galungan.

This is celebrated on the day before Galungan and is also called slaughter day, Balinese Hindus will sacrifice animals and take them to the temple or altar to use as an offering to the gods.

This ceremony is celebrated every 210 days in according to the Hindu calendar. It is believed that during these 10 days, the spirits of the deceased ancestors will return to earth to visit their former homes. The current inhabitants of these homes have a responsibility to be hospitable, they do this by offering their prayers and offerings. It is believed that the creator of the world, Ida Sang Hyang Widi, will come to earth and be present during these ceremonies.


During the day of Galungan a ceremony called ‘Ngelawang’ will be held in every village on Bali. Ngelawang is a ritual to expel evil and bad spirits, almost like an exorcism ritual. The ceremony is performed by a ‘barong’ – a mythical beast which acts as a divine protector. The barong will be invited into houses and his presence is supposed to restore the balance between good and evil.

During this festival you will notice countless bamboo poles reaching far into the sky, these are called ‘penjor’. Families come together to create the decorated penjor, which are usually decorated with fruit, coconut leaves and flowers. Some penjors are up to 10-meters high! The curved shapes of the penjor represent a sacred mountain, the middle section is the house of offerings or ‘Sanggah Cucuk’, which contains a selection of offerings consisting of basic needs such as rice. The penjor is normally mounted in front of a person’s house, next to the road. Having a penjor outside your home is believed to bring wealth and safety, it symbolises devotion to the god.


The last ceremony, on the tenth day of the Galungan ceremonies is called Kuningan. The Balinese believe that on this particular day, the supreme god Sang Hyang Widi will descend to earth to give his blessing to all the people. On this day the spirits of the ancestors and the gods will ascend back to their own realm.

On Kuningan Day, the ‘Mekotek’ tradition is practiced in Munggu Village to protect the world from any natural disaster especially from pests that can destroy the rice fields and other plantations.


How it works: The bamboo sticks are carried to the different temples, everyone comes together so that all the sticks meet at one point on top. The bravest man climbs to the top of the sticks, which is quite dangerous.


Author: Tim Driessen