Galungan and Kuningan are two important days for Balinese Hindus. Galungan feast is actually a 10-day religious festivity with the last day called Kuningan. Villages make offerings and erect tall bamboo poles called ‘penjor’ at the entrance of each house. Some say that the curve of the penjor symbolises the tail of a Barong, a mythological animal and king of the good spirits. Some say it represents a dragon, a fertility symbol, and that the palm leaves represent its vertebrae. A penjor is traditionally decorated with offerings made of fruits and plants growing in the soil and fruits growing above the ground to honour and express their gratitude to the gods living in the upper world and spirits in the underworld.
Galungan is the celebration of the victory of good over evil and the visit on earth of the gods, among of them, the creator of the universe (Sanghyang Widi Wasa). It is also the time of year that the spirits of the ancestors descend to their former homes to share the festivities and enjoy the offerings.
On the Galungan day itself, it is the occasion for men and women to be richly dressed, to pray at the family temples, and make offerings to the gods and returning spirits. They want to tell them that life goes on and everybody is doing fine. After Galungan day, it is time to visit the family. There is also a parade with the dancing Barong in each hamlet. The last day of festivity is Kuningan to thank gods and ancestors who return to their realm.
Balam Bali Villa decided to bring its guests to Penglipuran, on the slope of Mount Batur, in the vicinity of Bangli for these festivities. The superb village of Bamboo people is hardly mentioned in any guidebook. That day, the village was beautifully decorated with penjor. We attended a ceremony orchestrated by six priests with prayers addressed to the Barong, in front of countless offerings. The gamelan was playing a hypnotic melody. Then the Barong appeared and started dancing, followed by a procession of the villagers under their sacred umbrellas. The barong mask was worn by the youngsters who took in turns two by two. It is an honour for them to perform the Barong dance. Our guests were delighted. Half of them just arrived one day ago. It was a perfect introduction to the enchanting world of Bali - the other planet inhabited by the humans.