Soon the entire island of Bali will celebrate Galungan, the victory of dharma (good) over adharma. This holy day, which comes every 210 days on Balinese calendar, is a time for feasting, prayers, and the gathering of families to honor their deified ancestors. The Galungan season is closed ten days later with Kuningan. Between Galungan and Kuningan, if we go around villages on the island, it is common to see a unique ritual called ngelawang.

Ngelawang is a rite where the sacred barong effigy (believed to have magical powers) will be danced around the village accompanied by its devotees and a gamelan orchestra. The term derives from word lawang, which means “door” with the prefix “nge” which implies “to do”. Thus ngelawang is done from door to door, or even moving from one village to another.

The barong is a revered symbol of divine protective power in the universe. Ngelawang is a wonderful spectacle, but it has a deeper purpose. First, it aims to drive out evil spirits (bhuta kala) and protect all living beings from disease or disruption, and bless the villagers with harmony and clarity. On a social level, ngelawang strengthens the sense of brotherhood and community, as the procession moves through the village.

In recent years, the tradition has grown for children to ngelawang with a smaller non-sacred barong that they have made themselves. This is a delightful expression of Balinese creativity. As they move from one spot to another after a dance, people usually give the children a small donation as a simple thank you.

This year, the next Galungan falls on Wednesday, 1 November 2017. So, visit Bali soon and witness our happiness!

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