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Monday, October 12, 2009

The Story Behind Galungan Ceremony in Bali

The favorite holiday of all Balinese is Galungan, a festive day when the ancestors and Gods are invited to grace all temples and family shrines of Bali with their presence. There is no written evidence of how Galungan originated in Bali, although it is estimated to have become a tradition way back in the 11th Century. The ancient lontar (palm-leaf manuscript) Pan}i Malat Rasmi, which was written during the reign of Jenggala in the kingdom of Singasari, Kediri, describes Galungan as a "feast of war dances on a vast open field'.

When the Hindu kingdoms in Java were finally vanquished and Hindus escaped to the isolated slopes of Tengger and the Bali, Galungan was no longer celebrated as a festival of the people. Only in Bali has it continued to be celebrated every 210 days, according to the Balinese 30-week Wuku calendar. This year's festival will take place on the 5th of October.

There was a time when the Astasura Bumi Banten ruled over Bali, that all kinds of rituals were forbidden, including Galungan. This was recorded historically as a period of suffering wherein the kings who ruled lived very short lives. Because of this, Sri Jaya Kasunu, who was descended from Masula-Masuli, was forbidden to take the throne, in fear that he would die a young man.

In the lontar manuscript "Jaya Kasun/f, which has been summarized by Ni Made Sri Arwati, we can read how Sri Jaya Kesunu was enthroned and went to meditate at the Cemetery of Gandamayu, and received a blessing from Bhatari Durga, (the shaktiofShiva) in the form of a divine voice ordering him to revive the celebration of Galungan, if he wished for his people to live in peace and to rule as the raja until old age.

Jaya Kasunu also received a "pewarah-warah" (heavenly order) which has been translated as follows: "My child Sri Jaya Kasunu, order your people to hold this ceremony for weapons every Sabtu Kliwon Kuningan………for the appearance of the God of Death originates from the Pasupati who are greedy for victims, and they will not cease from magic and seeking to appease their hunger. But do not use your weapons to kill because that is something no man should do."

Today Galungan is considered to represent a celebration of the victory of good over evil. The day on which it is held, Buda Kliwon Galungan, is thought to be the best time to focus our thoughts in order to attain clarity and a high level of awareness, to be able to vanquish the causes of confusion.

In this way Galungan has come to symbolize the battle in our minds, which we express through all of our actions. But in carrying out the ceremony, it is realigned with the actions in the physical world, through the making of offerings, and creating a series of ceremonial rituals before, during and after Galungan.

A month before Galungan there is a ceremony called Tumpek pangarah, Pengatag, also known as Tumpek Wariga, aimed at blessing all forms of life and praying for trees and plants to be healthy and flourish. Then on Wraspati Wage wuku Sungsang comes Sugihan Jawa, and the following day Sugihan Bali on which the Balinese prepare themselves for Galungan by rituals of purification, to obtain the clarity necessary to face the challenges to come.

It is believed that three days before Galungan the evil spirits Sang Kala Galungan come down to earth and do their nasty work of disturbing, upsetting, and testing the convictions of man. This day is called Penyekeban, and it is the day on which the bananas are picked and disekeb, wrapped in banana leaves or frangipani bark so they will ripen extra quickly and be ready in exactly three days, in time for Galungan.

The next day is panyajaan, when the evil spirits are said to be doing their worst, human beings must "sa}a", or truly take care to keep in control of their emotions. In the physical world this is symbolized by focusing upon making cakes in the form of holy symbols, which will be used in the offerings for Galungan.

Penampahan the following day, is the height of the evil, and a huge feast is prepared to nampeh, or chase them away. In the physical dimension humans are allowed to kill pigs, chickens and duck for the feast on the following day, and share a small portion with the demons in offerings spread on the ground and in special shrines.The remainder is shared amongst families.

This day before Galungan, known as Anggara Wage Dungulan, is supposed to be the worst day in the entire year. It is a time when the Balinese must struggle with their emotions, refrain from anger and resist all provocation. "If we cannot control ourselves on this day" says Ni Made Budiasih, lecturer in the Hindu tertiary institute STAHN.

June-July 2005). If we lose control, or argue, she says, "all the weight and meaning of the ceremony we carry out becomes meaningless".

Finally, on Galungan, after having succeeded in fighting evil with prayer and offerings, the Balinese celebrate in an atmosphere of happiness, and brightness. Dressed in clean ceremonial clothes, they go to their family temples to ask for direction, blessings and protection for all their descendants in their life's journeys through the world. From here they take offerings to the Pura Kahyangan Tiga, the temples to the trinity of Brahma, Visnu and Shiva, to ask for peace and harmony in their village.

In this way the Balinese are continually reminded by their traditions of the importance of awareness of the teachings of their religion, passed down through the centuries, and kept alive through regular celebration.

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