Thu, 06 Jan 2000

Bali awash in Galungan rituals

DENPASAR, Bali (JP): More than two million Balinese celebrated the Galungan Festival, the first major religious celebration of 2000, on Wednesday.

Wearing elaborate and glittering costumes, Balinese women presented mountains of offerings at temples in Denpasar and neighboring cities as a token of gratitude and to celebrate victory over evil.

Children wore new dresses and shoes, and almost all shops, offices and entertainment centers in the island were closed in honor of the sacred day.

Celebrated every 210 days on Buda Kliwon Dungulan according to the Hindu Balinese calendar, this year's Galungan celebration fell on Wednesday.

For the Balinese, Galungan means the purification of their souls and minds to rejuvenate their lives in the face of the new century.

Galungan is tied to the concept of dharma (virtue) versus adharma (evil), which is relevant to everyday activities.

Based on this concept, Galungan is a time of self- contemplation and for pursuing goodness and happiness.

Noted scholar Ketut Sumarta said rituals like Galungan exist within agrarian communities.

A series of rituals are held in the 25 days prior to Galungan. The first ritual is called Tumpek Uduh. During this ritual, people place various offerings near all fruit and vegetable plants and other crops. By presenting these offerings, people expect the plants to yield good harvests.

Six days before Galungan, people carry out three different rituals -- Sugian Teten, Sugian Jawa and Sugian Bali.

Sugian Jawa is held to ask for people's welfare and prosperity while Sugian Bali is carried out to cleanse people's minds and to increase their self-control.

Three days before Galungan the Panyekeban ritual is held, during which people gather the fruits and vegetables to be used in the Galungan Festival.

According to religious leader Ketut Wiana, all of the rituals have philosophical and symbolic meanings.

He said the rituals symbolize the purification of the people, the earth and the universe.

Wiana said a day before Galungan, another ritual called Penampahan is held to eliminate anger, ferocity and violence from people's lives. The elimination of these bad elements is symbolized by sacrificing animals like pigs, goats and cows.

"We want to erase animal-like traits from ourselves. This celebration will sharpen our sensitivity, solidarity and humanity," said Wiana.

During the Penampahan ritual, people place Penjor, elaborate ornaments made of bamboo and coconut leaves, in front of their houses as a symbol of thankfulness to the Creator.

As they enter the new millennium, the Balinese are reminded to always walk on the right path in accordance to Hindu teachings.

Balinese can recall the violence, collusion and corruption which has tainted Bali and much of Indonesia over the past few years.

The latest violence in Bali took place last October when Megawati Soekarnoputri lost the presidential election.

"Galungan is celebrated twice a year. This actually functions as a telling reminder for the people to always pursue good deeds," Wiana said.

For many Balinese, the recent millennial celebrations and fanfare was less meaningful than Galungan, which provides the people a sense of purity. (zen/raw)