Tis the Season
The line up of Balinese sacred days at this time of the calendars is astonishing, as is the dedication with which they’re celebrated.
We already got to experience Nyepi, a once a year treat, if you like peace, introspection and moonlight. Two weeks later the 10 day Galungan celebrations start. They end today, with Kuningan:
During Galungan, the spirits of the ancestors revisit earth, and at the same time, the triumph of Good over Evil is commemorated. These celebrations involve serious, intricate preparations, and take place on a +/- twice yearly basis. I’m starting to ask myself how locals juggle work-life balance! And business in Ubud pretty much slowed to a stop again, for the four main days of the celebration….
The most striking symbols of Galungan are Penjors, long bamboo poles
with a little bamboo altar streetside from which a Lamak hangs, a fine leaf cutting on a long strip of palm leaf
A Penjor belongs at the front right hand corner of every property where Hindus live and must be standing by 6 pm on Penampahan, the day before Galungan.
Some say Penjors aren’t what they used to be, but for the unpracticed eye, they’re impressive and graceful. Several men worked on and off for two days, to prepare and decorate the Penjor on our property.
We got to see the “old fashion-1985-style” method of making them, defined as such by an artist living next to the ricefields in town. He said that about 30 years ago, making the Penjor from scratch started to become rarer in Ubud, and that families began to buy ready-made elements to decorate the pole. (Work-life balance, I guess?) His Penjor was classical-
Updating this, I’m happy to say that during our recent trip upcountry, along back roads, all Penjors were completely hand-made!
As to Penjor symbolism, our questions elicited the dreamlike answers we’re slowly getting used to. As far as we can make out the Penjor symbolises 1. a mythical dragon who represents goodness, and 2. Mount Ajung, where the dragon lives. (Mt. Agung, Bali’s highest mountain is considered the guardian of Bali and source of all its prosperity.) The long bamboo pole is the dragon’s tail, and the altar at the bottom, near the street, the dragons mouth, which is duly fed with all sorts of goodies on Galungan day-
During the 10 days following Galungan, we noticed lots of action in the temples and the village kids had a great time with the Ngelawang ceremony. Ngelawang is something like an exorcism rite, performed by a four legged beast called a Barong. The Barong, (two boys hidden in a furry lion-like Barong costume) is invited into the houses as he prances through the village. His presence is said to restore the balance of good and evil in a home. Here’s an adult-size Barong. We never got a clear shot of the cavorting child-size ones!
Finally, on Hari Raya Kuningan, ten days after Galungan, again accompanied by ceremonies and stacks of offerings, Good has vanquished Evil and the ancestor spirits return to heaven…… M says that means it’s time for a cold one!