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©Courtesy of Instagram account @andreasimanuell

Legend has it that there was a king called Mayadenawa who ruled over parts of Bali, Makassar, Sumbawa, Lombok etc. He was a descendant of the Daityas, a race of giants, half brothers of the Devas. Manusmriti, the ancient Hindu text refers to the Daityas as less important than the Devas.

King Mayadenawa possessed extraordinary powers and this made him arrogant to the point of becoming evil incarnate. He assumed that he had power far greater than a God and hence commanded the Balinese not to worship God but him alone. He razed to the ground many religious places of worship. Crops failed; food shortages followed with pestilence. Unfortunately, the people could not fight the king because of his supernatural powers.

A Hindu priest, Mpu Kul Putih meditated at Besakih Temple pleading with God for help. The answer came with divine instructions to travel to Jambu Dwipa (India) where he would find help.

The Balinese Hindu priest returned with an army led by Lord Indra, the God of War.

In the battle that ensued Lord Indra vanquished the evil Mayadenawa, who managed to escape.

When darkness fell and Lord Indra’s soldiers were sleeping, Mayadenawa created ‘Tirtha Cetik’ (poisonous water). The water poisoned the soldiers who drank it. Lord Indra drove a stick deep into the ground and from it sprang forth a holy spring called Tirta Empul, which was used to raise the fallen army.

Tirta Empul is located in the precincts of the Tirta Empul temple in the Tampaksiring regency, and is venerated by the Balinese Hindus.

King Mayadenawa while on the run and to avoid capture took the image of many things; Manuk Raya, a giant bird which is now called Manukaya village; Buah Timbul, a type of vegetable, now called Timbul village; Busung, young coconut leaves, now called Blusung village; Bidadari, where he turned into an angel, is called Kedewatan village.

In the end Mayadenawa took the form of a rock and Lord Indra killed him with an arrow. Mayadenawa’s blood became the river Tukad Petanu.

Lord Indra’s victory over the evil King Mayadenawa was the first Galungan, where Dharma, truth in its purest form overcame the Adharma, evil incarnate in all its avatars.

Galungan begins on the Wednesday of Dunggulan, the 11th week of the 210-day Pawukon calendar.  And this is why there are two such celebrations in one Gregorian calendar year. This year Galungan and Kuningan is celebrated on February 19th and 29th; and September 16th and 26th.

Galungan is when spirits of deceased loved ones visit their ancestral homes and Kuningan, ten days later, is when the spirits return to their world.

During Galungan a group of children accompanied by Barong Bangkung (a pig figure) and gamelan go door to door to drive away any resident evil forces and protect the inhabitants from disease caused by bhuta kala (evil spirits). This is called Ngelawang.

Exquisitely decorated Penjors are made and installed at the entrance of temples and homes. Fruits, vegetables, various cereals, rice cake decorations are hung from it. A shrine, sanggah penyor, is woven from yellow coconut leaves and attached to it at eye-level. Chinese coins are added as thanks giving. A Sampian is hung from the top of the Penjor. It symbolizes the cosmic wheel.

These are the various stages of preparation, worship and celebrations –

Penyekeban:  This means literally ‘the day to cover up’, when green bananas are placed in clay pots to speed their ripening three days prior to Galungan. (Three days before Galungan.)

Penyajaan: Cooking of coloured rice cakes (jaja Bali) for offerings as well as consumption. (Two days before Galungan.)

Penampahan: Sacrificing pigs, chicken or ducks for offerings as well as for feasts. (One day before Galungan.)

                                ©Courtesy of Instagram account @aayu_novita.s

Galungan: Families share a day of praying at temples with offerings. The Kebayas, sarongs, sashes, huge intricately displayed fruit offerings delicately balanced on the women’s heads as they walk in line to the temples to sound of the gamelan is a stunning sight that never ceases to amaze. The religiosity is an integral aspect of this day.

Manis Galungan, one day after Galungan: On this day Balinese families visit their relatives, go sightseeing and feast. It is truly a day when one tastes the sweet life! (One day after Galungan.)

Kuningan, tenth day after Galungan, is when the spirits of loved ones return to their world. The day is filled with visits to the temples with offerings and prayers – A thanksgiving to Sang Hyang Widi for bringing peace and abundance and for protecting the people against evil forces.

Manis Kuningan, the eleventh day is the day when families and relatives meet to eat and share the day in each other’s company.

This is the most important festival in the Balinese Hindu calendar for it strengthens the religious and familial ties that bind the Balinese Hindus into a powerful force of faith and community.