What is Galungan?
Galungan is the most important feast for Balinese Hindus. The festival is a celebration to honor the creator of the universe (Ida Sang Hyang Widi) and the spirits of the honored ancestors. It symbolizes the victory of good (Dharma) over evil (Adharma) and encourages the Balinese to show their gratitude with offerings, prayer, and dance.
Offerings to the Ancestors
Galungan occurs twice a year in the 210-day cycle of the Balinese calendar (explained in this article about Bali's culture) and marks the time of the year when the spirits of the ancestors are believed to visit the earth. Balinese Hindus perform rituals that are meant to welcome and entertain these returning spirits.
The house compounds that make up the nucleus of Balinese society come alive with devotions offered by the families living within. Families offer bountiful sacrifices of food and flowers to the ancestral spirits, expressing gratitude and hopes for protection. These sacrifices are also offered at local temples, which are packed with devotees.
The whole island sprouts tall bamboo poles, or penjor, which are usually decorated with fruit, coconut leaves, and flowers and set up on the right of every residence entrance. At each gate, you'll also find small bamboo altars set up especially for the holiday, each one bearing woven palm-leaf offerings for the spirits.