Kuningan Day is celebrated 10 days after Galungan. Same with Galungan, Kuningan is celebrated every 210 days or every 6 month in Balinese calendar which 1 month consists of 35 days. The exact day for Kuningan is Saniscara (Saturday) Kliwon Wuku Kuningan. In this holy Kuningan Day it is said that Ida Sang Hyang Widhi (God) comes to the earth to give his blessing for human race. Balinese Hindu people believe that the ceremony for Kuningan Day must not pass midday, before the God and ancestors’ spirits go back to heaven. There are some typical equipments or offerings for Kuningan Day such as “Nasi Kuning” or yellow rice, “Endongan” as a symbol of offering to God / Hyang Widhi, “Tamyang” as a symbol of danger repellent, and “Kolem” as a symbol of resting place for Gods and ancestors’ spirits.
These equipments also have own meaning such as nasi kuning which symbolizes the prosperity; Tamyang becomes a reminder for the importance of nature law; If we maintain and preserve the nature, it will give us prosperity, but if we do not do so, it will give us disasters; Endongan symbolizes supplies. The most important supply in life is the knowledge and devotion. Thus, by the celebration of Kuningan Day, Hindu, especially in Bali is expected to maintain peaceful life.
Worshippers express their gratitude through prayer and offerings to the trinity of Gods for the ultimate gift of life. At Kuningan the arched bamboo poles referred to as as penjor, which are erected in front of each Balinese home compound during the religious festivities, are redecorated. White cloth is replaced with yellow cloth at the base of the penjor’s temporary shrine as an indication of prosperity. All ceremonial tokens of appreciation must be performed before 12 noon to farewell the spirits as they depart the physical world and disappear into the unseen.
Different from Galungan Day, in Kuningan Day people are not obligated to pray in all temples around their village especially if the distance of the temple from home is far. The celebration of this day could also be done at home because it is related to the short duration of this holiday which is only until midday. However, some people still come and pray to the temples around their village just like in Galungan Day, even though it must be started early in the morning so that they do not pass the midday. It could be concluded that the main meaning of Kuningan Day is to beg for safety, prosperity, welfare, protection, and guidance from Hyang Widhi Wasa and the spirits of ancestors.
The Balinese believe that Kuningan day is the day when their ancestors return to heaven after visiting the earth during Galungan celebration. They make offerings to be given to the ancestors on their farewell day. The offerings include yellowed rice (Kuningan is derived from the word kuning which means yellow) which is placed in a small “bowl” made of coconut leaves. Other common offerings a seeds, fish and fruit like papaya and cucumber. The yellow rice is the symbol of human’s gratitude towards God for all the life, joy, wealth, health and prosperity given. The bowls are decorated with a small figures of shadow puppets which represents angels that bring joy and wealth to earth. It is also said that on Kuningan day Ida Sang Hyang Widhi (God) is blessing and giving prosperity to the whole world. Many people believe that the celebration should be done before noon, before gods and goddess’ return to the heavens to continue their asceticism.
On Kuningan day you can see tamiang and endongan decorations hanging outside homes and temples. Tamiang means – and is formed as a round – shield and represents protection, defense, and the cycle of the globe. It functions as a reminder to humans of karma and that they should protect themselves from bad behavior. Endongan means bag of provisions. It is made of coconut leaves and shaped like a bag or a pocket. The Balinese put different things like seeds, fruits, tuber inside the endongan.Some people see it is a symbol of food supply for the journey of the ancestors from earth to heaven. From a spiritual view, endonganrepresents the essential provisions that every human should carry-knowledge and homage.
In some villages, especially in Gianyar region, Barong or ngelawangs – lion like creatures – are going from house to house followed by kids playing traditional Balinese music instruments. If a barong arrives in front of your house, you should give an offering called canang with sesari (money) on it, after receiving the offering; the barong will dance and bless your house and your family. This day is known as Kuningan Day. The word Kuning in Bahasa Indonesian means Yellow and Nasi Kuning is delicious yellow rice (Nasi) made with coconut milk and tumeric. It is often eaten for breakfast. To celebrate the departure of the spirits, offerings of Nasi Kuning are placed in a bowl made of coconut leaves. The yellow rice is the symbol of human’s gratitude towards God for all the life, joy, wealth, health and prosperity given. The bowls are decorated with a small figures of shadow puppets which represents angels that bring joy and wealth to earth. Many Balinese return to their villages to celebrate Kuningan with their families. Houses and temples are adorned with tamiang and endongan decorations.
In some villages, Barongs or ngelawangs – lion like creatures – are going from house to house followed by kids playing traditional Balinese music instruments. If a barong arrives in front of your house, you should give an offering called canang with sesari (money) on it, after receiving the offering; the barong will dance and bless your house and your family. During the week of Kuningan, Balinese people will not run any programs as all the Balinese are too busy with the preparations of this big event. For you as a foreigner it is the perfect opportunity to go around the Island to see all the beautiful decorations of the streets and temples. During the Kuningan period you will notice Balinese people dressed beautifully in bright colored dresses (especially yellow because yellow means kuning in Bahasa) and it is a great time to take some of your best pictures of your unforgettable experience with local people and culture.
On Kuningan Day itself you are more than welcome to join your Balinese host family to the temple and eat with the family. Be prepared for some real traditional Balinese food and don’t hesitate to try everything but remember to always pay attention on your health and how your body will handle the food. Because most of the traditional Balinese food are spicy and raw. Please do note that if you are going to the temple, you are required to wear a sarong and a t-shirt with long sleeves. Always obey the rules that local people tell you during your trip. You can ask your host family for a proper outfit and without any doubt they are more than happy to help you and they will very much appreciate your effort to be part of this beautiful Balinese tradition.
During Kuningan Day in Bali also prayers and offerings take place all over this stunning Indonesian Island and in Munggu Village a small hamlet which is well known for diligently continuing to keep Balinese Tradition alive and conserve Balinese culture we have the Mekotek Tradition of Stick Fighting. The Mekotek Tradition is an unusual and unique Bali event or ritual which occurs solely in Munggu Village during Kuningan. Kuningan in Bali which takes place every 210 days on the Balinese Saka calendar is a great time to experience real Balinese Culture, a time to witness authentic Bali, colorful, unique, interesting, fun and so culturally rich it beggars belief! The Mekotek Tradition goes back a long why as do many Balinese cultural traditions. It is said Mekotek or Ngerebeg as it is known locally dates back to the time of the great King of Mengwi. The myth has it that the King wanted to venture further afield and extend his area of rule and power which would include the Blambangan Kingdom in Java. Being in Munggu at the time he decided to pray at the local Pura (Hindu Temple) of Pura Dalem Wisesa. After which he miraculously found himself in possession of a long iron spear and shield with which he could protect himself against danger during the upcoming crusade!
Needless to say the war campaign was successful and The King of Mengwi found himself back in Munggu Village on his victorious way home. He had made a vow after victory that he would create the Mekotek Tradition or ceremony called Ngerebeg which would mimic the victorious battle and would stand as remembrance to that rather fruitful and eventful day. This unique Bali Tradition of Mekotekan is a ceremonial ritual and starts at the Pura Dalem Wisesa Temple in the village before men parade with sticks held aloft through the village to take part in the Mekotek tradition. Gamelan music playing throughout the ritual also adds to the atmosphere with Gamelan musicians following the proceedings along with many spectators and rival supporters.
From time to time a stick fighting participant will climb the triangular shaped cone of sticks to issue a battle cry before the two groups clash. It’s a fun event which rarely witnesses any injury or hard feelings amongst opposing forces or supporters and has more of a party atmosphere. Finally when the event has finished the procession proceeds calmly with all participants and spectators and supporters parading to the opposite end of the village to another temple before ultimately disbanding. The Mekotek Tradition it is hoped will prevent catastrophes and bring prosperity and takes place on the holy Kuningan Day due to an unfortunate event in the past which brought disease to Munggu village resulting in death and crop failures. We hope that you will enjoy the kuningan day experience in Bali, just don’t forget to always stay safe and healthy.