Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Selamat Hari Raya Galungan!

On the predominantly Hindu island of Bali, Indonesia, today is Galungan... the holiest of holy days in the 210 Pawukon (Balinese cycle of days) calendar. Galungan is celebrated in commemoration of victory of Dharma (virtue) over Adharma (evil). Galungan is the time when man celebrates the triumph of the balinese struggle to subdue the evil influences of the six internal enemies (sad ripu), kama (lust), loba (greed), krodha (anger), mada (drunkeness), moha (confusion) and matsarya (envy).

Galungan is a time when the deified ancestral spirits return to earth, resting for a time in shrines contained within the ancestral temples found in all Balinese home & family compounds. During the day, offerings are made to these ancestral spirits in the family temples and at the central village temples throughout Bali as well. Special foods are prepared to be enjoyed by the Gods and by the family members, most returning home to the villages of their birth for at least part of the day, even if they live or work in other parts of the island.

Galungan is perhaps the most beautiful time to visit the Island of the Gods. Every village, every street and almost every household gate is festively decorated with long curved bamboo poles, ornately decorated with woven palm fronds, brightly colored bunting and other accessories. These poles are know as penjor and are a symbol of prosperity and are used as a sign of respect to God for all of his blessings. Penjor will almost always be decorated with bits of food... sweet potato, banana, coconut and assorted crispy treats made from fried sticky rice.

During the day of Galungan, the Balinese return to their ancestral homes to share with friends and family, pay respects to God and their deified ancestors, always dressed in their ceremonial finest. During this holiday, the grace and beauty of the Balinese is most apparent... a splendid pageant of elegance, reverence, solidarity and unearthly beauty.

Granted, this post has nothing to do with the business of photography, but it does allow me yet another opportunity to drag our some of my photographs from many trips to the island during the last twenty years and to share in the celebration, from a great distance, with my Balinese family and friends around the island, several of which I know drop in from time to time to read the blog.

Pictured below is a photograph taken during Galungan festivities in the sublimely picturesque village of Penglipuran, high in the mountains of the Bangli Regency. Women of the village are seen passing through the elaborately carved gates of the central village temple after praying, making their offerings and receiveing holy water from the temple's priest.

Villagers leave the temple, parading down the "main street" of Penglipuran, past the orderly arranged compounds flanking both sides of the path and underneath a canopy of ornately decorated penjor.

During Galungan, in every village, a parade of Barong will pass by every family compound and home, dispensing the blessings of the Barong to the villagers while accepting their offerings and prayers.

After visiting and praying at the temple in Penglipuran, it's off to the ancestral home of my Balinese family in Klungklung. Below are a niece and nephews of my Balinese brother, Ida Bagus Adi. The entire family was on hand to enjoy a grand feast and to reinvigorate family ties that are essential to the communal social structure of the island.

To all of my friends & family in Bali, I wish you  Selamat Hari Raya Galungan (Happy Galungan).

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