To take a stroll down Bali’s streets and laneways during the holy festival of Galungan is to be transported into a different world – one where gods and spirits exist side by side with we mere humans. The festival, which celebrates the triumph of dharma over adharma (good over evil) in the local Animist-Hindu faith, occurs every 210 days and is one of the most colourful and impressive religious celebrations anywhere in the Indonesian archipelago.
Holidaying on the island of the Gods during Galungan offers the opportunity for visitors to experience Balinese culture at its most exotic. It’s a happy time when the people of Bali connect with their gods, each other, and their past. Ancestral spirits visit the homes of their living kin. Bamboo poles – known as Penjor – arch over roadsides and are adorned with gifts for ancestors and gods alike. Women in traditional dress carry offerings of tropical fruits, flowers and rice cakes to village temples.
Bali’s Hindu faithful gather with alongside family and devote time to thanking the gods for the prevalence of good through offerings and prayers at temples and house shrines island-wide. For the intrepid cultural adventurer interested in witnessing authentic Balinese culture firsthand, head to one of the island’s largest temples, such as the Pura Luhur Uluwatu, located near Karma Kandara. Be sure to dress accordingly out of respect for local customs and beliefs.
The end of the ten-day festival marks the time when the ancestral spirits and ancestors ascend back to heaven. Visitors to Bali on the final day of Galungan may notice unique offerings of yellow rice, which represent the individual’s gratitude towards the gods for their life, as well as wealth, health and prosperity.