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5 Things to Know About Bali's Galungan Festival

Galungan is the Balinese New Year every year which occurs every six months based on the Balinese traditional calendar. It's one of the best times to visit Bali if you're interested in experiencing and witnessing the full plethora of the island's spirituality and traditional culture. It is a mystical time and despite your belief in Balinese spirituality, you will be caught up in its energy. In 2017, I visited Bali during Galungan and was mesmerized by the spiritual current and devotion which permeated this Hindu island. Whats more peculiar is that Bali is a Hindu island in a country which boasts the largest Asian muslim population in the world. Here are five things to know about Bali's Galungan festival if you plan on visiting during this time.

1. Most Auspicious Time of the Year- Galungan is the most sacred period of the Balinese's 210-day calendar. It's a 10-day holiday celebrating the victory of the forces of good (dharma) over the forces of evil (adharma). Oftentimes you will see theatrical performances of this mythical battle between good and evil being performed in the temples. During Galungan, it is believed that the spirits of the gods and ancestors visit the earth. This gives the island a very magical and mystical quality. The 10-day period ends with Kuningan when the gods and ancestors return to their own realm. Although the festival lasts for 10 days, the exact dates fluctuate each year. If you are planning to attend, its good to check the exacts dates online beforehand.

2. Processions- During the time of Galungan, prepare yourself to experience and witness multiple local processions called ngelawang. These processions involve traveling around the village in the costume of Barong Rangda and Barong Kedengkling, two major spirits of the Balinese Hindu pantheon. Navigating the streets in a car may be tricky during this time as it's common for traffic be stopped minutes at a time as various processions go by. Each village has their own procession. So you never know when you may experience gridlock. However, they offer visitors a wonderful opportunity to witness an authentic Balinese cultural event in practice. Oftentimes you can even join a procession as the Balinese people are quite open to visitors and tourists.

3. Main Devotions- One of the main things which occur during Galungan is the visiting of local and major temples as well as house shrines to pray and leave offerings by the local people. For this reasons temples will be frequently visited by local devotees. Families often come together in various capacities to handle various aspects of the festivities. Men usually prepare and cook the traditional food while women prepare the offerings.

4. Sarongs- It's proper etiquette and respect for women and men to wear a sarong when entering any of the temples, regardless of whether you are a practicing devotee or not. Its also important to respect the local pilgrims and devotees in the temples. While the Balinese are use to tourists visiting their sacred sites and temples, its still good practice to be discreet, respectful and mindful of the worshippers when you are in the temples.

5. Penjors- One of the most familiar sights to see during the Galungan festival are long and slender bamboo poles beautifully decorated with fresh palm leaves called penjors. Balinese place these festival decorations in front of their homes and shops. You can also find these decorative structures lining the streets. Penjors are created and displayed to symbolize the dominance of good over evil and as a sign of gratitude to God. .The curved part of the penjor is said to symbolizes Mount Agung, the highest mountain in Bali that is considered the home of the gods.

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