Galungan – Celebrating the Gods

If you wish truly to understand specific region or country, you need to immerse yourself in the daily life of its people. To understand Bali, is foremost to understand what comprises the essence of Balinese daily life – Balinese Hinduism.

On the early morning of 6th of July, full of excitement we were getting ready to set off to a small and definitely not touristic village of Bona. Checking the bags – whether we have all the ceremonial clothes needed, checking whether there is enough fuel in our motorbike and setting our GPS to be able to find the place.

Galungan – a celebration occurring every 210 days according to Balinese calendar luckily happened at the time of our visit. It is somehow similar to Christmas celebrated by christians: families gather together, coming from the farthest corners of Indonesia, children visit their parents and big meals are shared. However this celebration is one of a kind in the world: on the day of Galungan Gods and spirits of ancestors descend to the temples to enjoy earthly life for 10 days. Therefore with Galungan starts a period full of dances, ceremonies, bigger and smaller offerings. Though Balinese are Hindus, Hinduism here differs a lot of from one in India: it has developed through ages absorbing early animism and naturalism practices creating unique traditions and rituals.

But while navigating through narrow streets, up-and-down hills, passing rice paddies we new almost nothing about the meaning of upcoming celebration. Instead we were simply happy to be invited to celebrate Balinese christmas in a local village and finally get a glimpse of life of an ordinary Balinese man. So we tied our sarongs (a larger piece of fabric worn as kilt or skirt) and prepared for an exciting experience!

Walking through Balinese village is already a special happening: seeing a white girl and a black guy with crazy hair dressed ala-Balinese brings joy and excitement to the villagers. But once entering the temple everybody seems not to notice us, the attention is elsewhere… The rituals of praying in Balinese temples are very elegant: hundreds of bright fresh flowers, subtile smell of incenses, colourful offerings and gracious moves of praying hands. Seems like everything in Balinese lifestyle has to be beautiful and you feel overwhelmed by art. Staying for a day in Bona, observing daily routines, talking and being in the temple, you little by little start to understand, that for Balinese people art and daily life is inseparable, art and religion is one. Everything that a person creates, whether it is dance, food, clothes or coconut leave decoration, is an offering to Gods.

We move from temple to temple (there are at least three bigger temples in each village, and apart that each family compound has its own shrine) still not being able to get used to everything-beautiful-surrounding-us. And there is more to come, as Galungan is just a beginning of a 10 days celebration for Gods, and Balinese Gods love beauty!

Needless to tell more, as pictures speak for themselves.

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For more pictures visit our picasa album.

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