By good fortune, we happened to be in Bali during the start of Galungan. This festival happens twice a year and is a celebration of good over evil. As the myth goes, a rueful king forbade his subjects to worship Hinduism. The king was powerful, and was only defeated after Indra, the Hindu God of Thunder came down from the Heavens to help defeat the king.
The celebration builds over four days. Prices go up in the local markets. Every household erects a penjor (an intricately decorated bamboo pole. The poles are wrapped in cloth, and coconut frond leaves). As we drove from place to place our drivers would comment on various penjors. “That one no good, too small. That is a very nice penjor.” Taller is better. Decorated is better. One driver told us that there is a city-wide Ubud competition on penjors. The penjors stay up for a month and then are cut up and burned. The ashes are buried on the property for luck.
On the first day, most shops and services cease on the first day as families spend time praying and feasting together and becoming reacquainted. Aside from the penjors, each house decorates their shrines, makes food, flower, and incense offerings.
Everyone was dressed in full Adat as family members congregated and people went to and from relative’s houses bringing offerings and gifts. Everyone was dressed so colorfully.
For a more thorough description of the festival click here.