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Celebrating Galungan - Kuningan Holy Days

Balinese celebrates the victory of Dharma over Adharma during Galungan holy days. It is believed that the ancestors are visiting during these holy days to help the people defeating the bad and evil force. This event is often linked to the mythology of Barong and Rangda. Barong symbolizes the good force and Rangda symbolizes the curse or the evil one, in Bali both of these forces are considered holy. Barong and Rangda symbolize the balance between constructive force and destructive force (Rwa Bhineda), same concept as Yin and Yang.

Image from Tropenmuseum

In Balinese calendar system, Galungan days fall in Wuku Dungulan. The first three days of this Wuku are dedicated to Galungan days preperation. This first three days are very important because it is believed that Kala Tiga or the Three Demons are visiting and may disturb the holy days. One must avoid the influence of these three demons of Galungan.

This 2024, the first day of Wuku Dungulan falls on Sunday, February 25th. This day called Penyebakan Day. During this day, people are burning the unripe bananas in earthenware containers with some coconut as offerings. These bananas will also be used as offerings during the festival later.

The second day, called Penyajahan Galungan, is the day to prepare the offerings.

The third day is called Penampahan Galungan. The day when Penjors are prepared and erected in every front gate. These Penjors are symbolizing the cosmic dragon Anantaboga that is believed will protect the people from the evil force. These three first days are the most intense days. Most of the work is done by women.

The fourth day— marked as Buda Kliwon Dungulan in Balinese calendar system — is the big day of Galungan. All Balinese will gather with their families to visit the temples for upacara and present their offerings.

Illustration by I Gusti Nyoman Darta from the book Time, Rites, and Festivals in Bali

There will be 10 days gap between Galungan and Kuningan, which in during the gods are in residence in the temples. And during these 10 days, there are other important days: Wrespat Umanis Dungulan (Thursday) is when to visit extended families and gather together and Saniscara Pon Dungulan (Saturday), called Pamaridan Guru, is the day to worship Batara Guru (Siwa), and the removal of the last Galungan offering (nglungsur baten Galungan).

During this 10-days celebration between Galungan and Kuningan, there will be some kids performing Barong Ket dance from door to door (nglawang). This Barong is taken around to cleanse the land of destructive influences and to protect the land from evil forces.

Sunday — March 3rd, marked as Radite Wage Kuningan day that is called Ulihan Jawa. Which one of the important days of Galungan-Kuningan ceremonial cycle. As we all know, one of Balinese’s ancestors are from Java and during this Ulihan Jawa holy day, it is believed that the ancestors from Java are going back home.

Monday — March 4th, on Soma Kliwon Kuningan that is called Ulihan Bali or Pamecekan Agung is the day for the ancestors from Bali are going back home. This day closes a period of danger and the offerings are made to placate the three demons of Galungan.

On Wednesday — March 6th, on Buda Paing Kuningan, the god Wisnu is worshipped. Tomorrow, Friday March 8th, on Sukra Wage Kuningan, called Penampahan Kuningan. Pigs are slaughtered on this day as the preparation for the following holy day: Tumpek Kuningan on Saniscara Kliwon Kuningan, which is the last day of Galungan-Kuningan cycle.

On this Kuningan day, March 9th, the celebrated ancestors are being sent back to their original realm where they belong. They are told “Mangkin mantuk ke kedituan!” which means “Go back to where you belong.”

Rahajeng Galungan Lan Kuningan, Semeton. Dumogi Rahayu Sareng Sami.

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