Galungan, a Traditional Balinese Ceremony

Jonathan BealBali0 Comments

Galungan a Traditional Balinese Ceremony
The family that hosts my Airbnb in Mengwi invited me along to the main ceremony as part of Galungan. A festival that lasts almost a week in preparations and events. I was even inadvertently included in the festival, read on to find out more. You can learn more about Galungan in my Bali blog post.

This has to be up there with one of the most amazing things I’ve experienced. I arrived at my hosts house and right away they dressed me up in traditional Balinese dress.

The Galungan Ceremony

galungan-balinese-dressI was given a scooter for the night, in case I “got bored” and needed to leave early. We arrived to hundreds of locals marching in their traditional dress, followed by a band. The feeling in the air was electric, you can understand why Galungan and other ceremonies have endured as long as they have, why wouldn’t you want to be a part of this.

Upon entering the temple I won’t lie, I felt a touch overwhelmed, there was activity everywhere. From people presenting offerings to the many shrines, to the young girls performing a traditional dance. I got chatting to a few of the locals, some assumed I could speak Bahasa or Indonesian, because apparently my outfit made me look Balinese, what a compliment!

Galungan young children dancingThe temple covers a large area with many different internal compartments, shrines, a main temple, a performance area, seating and much more. The amount of people here was staggering, and it was such an honour to be the only westerner here. I can’t say enough how special being included in the Galungan ceremony was.

Next up was the ladies dance, where 50 of the villages women perform a dance. This dance was great to see and my host was even up performing. Seeing all the traditional elements of Galungan come together in this ceremony was amazing.

My 15 Minutes

Now to the part where I was included, they have a performer, who dresses up and wears masks to relate to certain gods, fictitious characters or people from history. These were great and they regularly interacted with the crowd. One in particular who was described as a joker to me had been attempting to get either the local children or adults to join him and also wear a mask. I was minding my own business taking photos and video, when he approaches me, I almost ran. What could I do, I was being told to “go with him”, I couldn’t say no.

Galungan mask dramaSo fast forward to me wearing a mask that I could barely see out of, the eye holes were at least an inch too low, struggling to see, with hundreds of locals staring at me. I managed to adjust the mask so I could see, the joker motioned for me to copy him, he starts dancing, in a traditional balinese side to side hands at mid height kind of way. I copied him, the locals erupted into laughter, he had me do this 3-4 times more before I just couldn’t see out of the mask any more. It was a blast, and I never expected to end up dancing in front of the locals in a mask!

Come to Bali

Overall I have to say that it was such a pleasure involved in Galungan, the locals are so friendly. Balinese culture is so inclusive, and the hospitality shows no bounds. If you ever get the chance to stay in Bali, stay in a home stay or Airbnb in a village, especially around a ceremony. You will see and do things that most don’t get to, and in a truly authentic way. I can say after 4 days in Bali I have seen real Bali.

Have you been involved in any local customs that I should know about? Let me know in the comments below.

About the Author

Jonathan Beal

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Jonathan is passionate about travel, and breaking down stigmas and taboos surrounding bisexuality. He is a fervent supporter of LGBT+ rights. Jonathan wants to build a community of like minded people who can support each other through experience and action. He loves fitness, cats and photography.

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