If you are in Bali around the time of celebration of Galungan you are sure to see Penjors lining most streets outside Bali homes. The most recent Galungan ran from 5 April 2017 until 15 April. Galungan is held every 210 days always beginning on a Wednesday and ending 10 days later on Kuningan day, always a Saturday. Next Galungan will start on 1 November 2017
One of the most important celebrations in Bali, Galungan is a celebration of victory of dharma ( spritual enlightenment ) over adharma ( spritual disharmonies). Victory of good over evil.
During Galungan the spirits of deceased ancestors return to their family compounds until their return to the sacred mountain on Kuningan Day.
Penjors are usually erected on the day before Galungan starts and serve as a sign of hospitality to their ancesters from the living relatives and offering thanks for prosperity. They are curved ornamental bamboo poles about 10 metres tall that hang over the street with offerings at their base.
Erecting Penjors is mens work while women prepare the offerings.
Penjors show devotion to God in his manifestation as Hyang Giri Pati (the God of the Mountain).
Symbolism of all aspects of the penjors is extremely important to the Balinese people.
The curved part of the penjor symbolises Mount Agung, the highest mountain in Bali, the home of the gods. The body of the pole symbolises the rivers that flow from the mountains to the sea.
The strong bamboo pole is a symbol of the strength of devotion. The four palm-leaf ornaments of the penjor are symbols of the Catur Weda, the four pillars of Hindu holy scripture. The ubag-abig, a square ornament made of palm and coconut leaves, represents the power of virtue.
Materials used in the construction of the penjors symbolise as follows
White cloth – the power of the mighty god (Hyang Iswara)
Bamboo – the power of the god of creation (the mighty Brahma)
Young palm leaves – the power of the great protector ( Hyang Mahadena)
Coconut – the power of the god of storm and unpredictable danger (Hyang Rudra)
Leaves – andong leaves , fern leaves – the power of the god of plants (Hyang Sangkara)
Banana or cucumber (pala bungkah) – the power of god of the world and restorer of moral order (Hyang Wisnu)
Sugar cane – the power of god Shambhu
Sanggah Ardha Candra ( the holy tray where the offering to the ancestors are placed) – the power of the great god Shiva
During Galungan many families return to their villages holding numerous ceremonies, visiting friends and enjoying the abundance of food. Penjors often remain in place for months after the end of Galungan so even if you come to Bali at a different time of the year you are still likely to see their graceful forms adding to the beauty of this wondrous island.