During the celebrations of Galungan and Kuningan, Bali transforms into a vibrant celebration of culture and tradition.

The streets are lined with colorful decorations, intricately crafted bamboo poles and palm leaves. Everyone parades through the streets, dressed in traditional Balinese clothing and offering prayers to the Gods.

The festivities are joined by the intense, rhythmic sound of gamelan instruments and the smell of incense. Food stalls are scattered throughout the streets, offering a variety of local delicacies. At night, the festivities become even more lively with fireworks and bonfires. 

Galungan and Kuningan is a special time for the Balinese people. What actually is it? Let’s find out more!

The History of Galungan and Kuningan

Galungan and Kuningan are two of the biggest, and most important Balinese Hindu holidays. They are celebrated over a 10-day period (Galungan happening first, with Kuningan following 10 days later), and involve numerous religious ceremonies and offerings.

Both holidays have been celebrated since the 11th century, and are closely tied to the Hindu calendar. It is celebrated twice a year; once in the months of March or April, and then again in the months of October or November.

The celebrations are held on the Balinese calendar days of Umanis Galungan and Kuningan, which are the tenth and eleventh days of the Balinese month of Pawukon.

The history of Galungan and Kuningan is rooted in Balinese mythology. According to legend, the spirits of the dead come back to earth during this time to visit their families. The gods, in turn, celebrate the return of the dead and the victory of dharma (good) over adharma (evil).

Galungan is the more important of the two holidays, and marks the victory of good over evil. A day of joy and celebration. It is believed to be the day when the souls of the ancestors come to visit their families on earth. On Galungan, people make offerings at their local temples and family shrines, while they dress in their best clothes and decorate their homes with bamboo poles and colorful decorations. 

Kuningan marks the end of the holiday period, and is the day when the ancestors depart for the afterlife. On this day, people make offerings at the temple and family shrines, and visit each other’s homes to exchange gifts.

The celebration of Galungan and Kuningan has remained largely unchanged since it began in the 11th century. The rituals and offerings involved are meant to honor the gods and ancestors, as well as to thank them for the blessings they have bestowed upon the Balinese people.

During this time, people take the opportunity to clean their homes and make repairs, as it is believed to bring good luck.

Why are Galungan and Kuningan Important?

Both Galungan and Kuningan are celebrated all over Bali, and are an important part of the Balinese Hindu culture.

Even today, people continue to celebrate the festival with great enthusiasm and traditional rituals. The festivals are a reminder of the importance of living in harmony with nature, and with one another.

The celebrations are an opportunity to gather with family and friends to remember the past. These days are also an opportunity to show gratitude to the gods, and to honor the spirits of the dead.

What Happens During Galungan and Kuningan?

Galungan and Kuningan celebrations occur every 210 days, and represent the victory of dharma (virtue) over adharma (vice). During the 10-day period of the two holidays, Balinese Hindus celebrate with feasts, offerings, and prayers.

The first day of Galungan marks the arrival of ancestral spirits who are invited to share in the festivities. During the day, Balinese Hindus make elaborate offerings of food, flower arrangements, and incense to honor the spirits. Special ceremonies are also held at the family temples to welcome the spirits and ask for their blessings.

Kuningan rounds up the celebrations, when the ancestral spirits are thanked for their blessings and then sent back to their heavenly abode. On this day, more elaborate offerings are made and more ceremonies are held at the family temple. Afterward, the family will have a large feast and celebrate with traditional Balinese dance and music.

What Should You Do on Galungan and Kuningan?

If you are visiting Bali during the Galungan and Kuningan celebrations, you can expect to witness some incredibly unique and special sights.

On both Galungan and Kuningan, you can join in the traditional prayer ceremonies. Balinese people visit their local temples and offer prayers and offerings to the spirits of their ancestors. You can join the prayers and make donations to the temple. This is a great way to show respect to the local culture, and get a glimpse of the spiritual side of Bali.

You can even take part in the penjor ceremony. Penjor are the tall bamboo poles with various decorations, such as fruits, cakes, and incense attached to it. It is usually seen in front of every Balinese home. Tourists can join in by helping to set up the penjor. 

Finally, you can explore the festivities and ceremonies that are held throughout the island. Galungan and Kuningan are a time for celebration where you can expect to see plenty of traditional music and dances. There are also various markets and street fairs that are held, you can sample traditional Balinese food and shop for souvenirs.

Final Thoughts

Overall, Galungan and Kuningan are an incredibly special time to visit Bali, and experience the unique culture and customs of the Balinese people. Take part in the traditional prayer ceremonies, help to set up the penjor, and explore the various festivities and ceremonies held throughout the island.

The most important thing is to show respect for the ceremonies and traditions. You will find many parades on the main streets throughout the celebrations, try not to get overwhelmed by the traffic and just enjoy the sights. 


Featured image: Galungan in Tanah Lot Temple