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GALUNGAN AND KUNINGAN IN BALI IS A SACRED CEREMONY CELEBRATED TO COMMEMORATE THE VICTORY OF DHARMA (GOODNESS) AGAINST ADHARMA (BADNESS)

Galungan and Kuningan are big holidays for Balinese Hindus, a time when many visit temples to pray and ask for blessings from God and his manifestations. The festival commemorates the victory of Good (Dharma) over Evil (Adharma), and all Balinese perform prayers at big temples and family shrines as part of the Galungan and Kuningan celebrations. These celebrations are held every six months according to the Balinese calendar, which has 35 days in a month. All Balinese Hindus, regardless of caste, ethnicity, or class, celebrate these holidays. When you visit the island of Bali on Galungan and Kuningan Day, you will see a spiritual scene, where Hindus pray in temples to celebrate their special day.

All you need to know about Galungan and Kuningan

  • Meaning of Galungan and Kuningan
  • Galungan History
  • Galungan First Time Held
  • Philosophy of Galungan and Kuningan Days

Meaning of Galungan and Kuningan

Galungan and Kuningan, celebrated once every six months according to the Balinese calendar, are very important holidays for Balinese Hindus. Galungan falls on Wednesday, Wuku Dungulan, and eleven days later is followed by Hari Raya Kuningan which falls on Saturday, Wuku Kuningan. Although both holidays have similar meanings, they are celebrated on different days. These celebrations are very sacred, where Hindus will perform prayers at family temples and other big temples, to ask for blessings from God and their manifestations. The meanings of the feast days of Gulingan and Kuningan are as follows :

  • Meaning Galungan: The word “Galungan” is taken from the Old Javanese word for war or battle, and falls in the wuku Dungulan which describes the victory and surrender of human enemies from the temptation of the Bhuta Tiga: Bhuta Dungulan, Bhuta Galungan, and Bhuta Tepat. Galungan is also mentioned in the marriage quotation of Bharata Yudha by Mpu Sedah which contains “dungulaning parang”, signifying the day of surrender for the defeat of human enemies. Therefore, Galungan can be interpreted as a day of battle between good (human) and evil (evil human nature) which is won by good, and this victory is celebrated as Galungan Day.
  • Meaning Kuningan: The word Kuningan comes from the word “kauning” which means reaching spiritual heights by introspection to avoid danger. Kuningan is celebrated eleven days after Galungan, falling on Saturday Kliwon, Wuku Kuningan. Kuningan is regarded as the victory of Dharma over Adharma, with worship of the gods and goddesses and their manifestations, so that they descend to the world to purify and enjoy the offerings made in this worship. On this day it is believed that the Gods only descend to earth until noon. Therefore, the ceremonies and prayers of Hari Raya Kuningan only last until noon.

Galungan History

Galungan and Kuningan have a very important role in the lives of Balinese Hindus. On Galungan Day, Hindus celebrate the victory of Dharma against Adharma by performing prayers at family temples and big temples such as Besakih Temple, Lempuyang Temple, Uluwatu Temple, and Tanah Lot Temple. Meanwhile, Kuningan Day is considered a very important day also because it is believed that the gods descend to the world and reside in the big temples. This is an opportunity for Hindus to worship and make offerings to the gods, asking for blessings and a harmonious life. The origins of Galungan and Kuningan are uncertain, and this information relies on research from inscriptions, lontar, and community stories. The history that can be explained here is more sourced from myths that have circulated in the community, as well as ancient lontar relics that are still stored and preserved.

  • Based on Myth: The history of Galungan is based on a myth circulating among Hindus. The story tells of an evil king named Mayadenawa who had the power to do evil during his lifetime. Feeling that he was the most powerful king, Mayadenawa ordered his people to worship him and forbade worshipping the gods, even forbidding going to the temple. Due to the king’s evil behaviour, a religious leader named Mpu Sangkul Putih meditated to ask for God’s guidance. Finally, he was directed to go to Java Dwipa or India for help. There, Mpu Sangkul Putih met the Dewa Indra, who controls the weather, who was ready to help in defeating Mayadenawa. After a fierce battle, with the support of Dewa Indra, Mayadenawa was defeated. Although Mayadenawa used various cunning powers, Mpu Sangkul Putih’s efforts still won the battle. This myth contains a deep meaning, that good will always defeat evil, and humans are expected to always do good in order to create a harmonious life.
  • Based on Lontar: According to the lontar Purana Bali Dwipa, the first Galungan holiday was celebrated in 882. The lontar mentions that previously, kings routinely celebrated Galungan every year, but then the celebrations stopped for several years. As a result, many kings died young, and Bali was often hit by disasters, causing suffering to the local people. During the reign of King Sri Jayakasunu, the king was confused about the cause of the deaths of kings at a young age and the series of disasters that struck Bali. So, King Jayakasunu decided to perform tapa (self-purification) to seek guidance. Dewi Durga gave him guidance, explaining that all these problems were caused by the Balinese people no longer commemorating the Galungan holiday. Dewi Durga suggested that King Jayakasunu revive the tradition of the Galungan ceremony as a way to neutralise negative influences and ensure security and tranquillity in Bali. With this instruction, King Jayakasunu instructed his people to celebrate Galungan again. The aim was to avoid disasters on the island and to ensure that the king would live a long life. Since then, the tradition of celebrating Galungan is still carried out today as a form of preserving traditions and efforts to maintain the security and prosperity of Bali.

Galungan First Time Held

When it comes to the origins of Galungan Day, pinpointing the exact time this celebration was first held can be very difficult. However, we can trace the history from ancient relics, such as those recorded in the Balinese lontar Dwipa Purana. The lontar states that Galungan was first celebrated on the kapat full moon (kliwon dungulan buddha) in 882 AD or 804 saka year. In the lontar quote, it is stated that “Punang Aci Galungan Ika Ngawit, Bu, Ka, Dungulan sasih Kacatur, the 15th, Isaka 804. Bangun Indria Buwana Ikang Bali Rajya”, which can be translated as “The first celebration of Galungan was on Wednesday Kliwon, Wuku Dungulan, Sasih Kapat on the 15th of the year 804 Saka. The situation on the island of Bali is like Indra Loka”. Lontar is considered a sacred guide and library that is guarded by Hindus as a source of ancient knowledge. Without lontar, we may not have knowledge of events that happened in ancient times. Today, Hari Raya Galungan and Kuningan are held twice a year in the Gregorian calendar. These celebrations are filled with joy by Hindus who welcome the arrival of the gods into the world and have the opportunity to welcome them by worshipping in the big temples.

Philosophy of Galungan and Kuningan Days

Galungan and Kuningan have a very important role in the religious life of Balinese Hindus. The philosophy of Galungan Day is to celebrate the victory of Dharma (goodness) over Adharma (badness). This celebration means to unite spiritual forces in order to gain a calm mind and stance, a symbol of Dharma. The hope is that good and positive thoughts can overcome lust and all negative aspects represented as Adharma. Meanwhile, Kuningan Day has the purpose of asking for safety, protection, and guidance physically and mentally to the Gods, Bhatara, and other manifestations of God. This prayer is expected to bring blessings to Hindus, allowing them to live their lives in harmony. Therefore, it is important for Hindus in Bali to keep a positive mind in their life journey. Thus, everything is expected to run harmoniously, and happiness will present itself. The meaning of this holiday is very important in guiding the people towards the truth and always remembering the power of God Almighty. For those who cannot return to their hometowns to worship at family temples or big temples, they can worship at Jagatnatha Temple.

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