The Penjor of Galungan

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Penjor (photo courtesy of Kura2 Guide)

So I visited Bali at mid September to, ehem, enjoying my solo birthday trip. Instead of telling you my boring solo trip, the bar hopping, temple hopping or beach hopping that surely some of you have been there, there’s one interesting thing that caught my eyes. That thing is yellow, bright and so full of festivities. That thing is called Penjor by locals.

As I said before, I went to Bali to spend my Birthday, while I didn’t know that my birthday is actually fell on between two Hindu greatest religious holidays, The Galungan (September 7th) and The Kuningan (September 17th). When I landed at Denpasar on September 15th, the festivals are still going on with all that wishes all over the airports. And the penjors that decorated Bali road sides were mesmerized me. I am a Jakarta local, often called Betawi, and we make penjor too occasionally. We usually erect a penjor during wedding, place it as a decoration outside the wedding reception area, as a symbol of hope and joy wishes to the bride and groom. Those penjors erected in Bali during Galungan and Kuningan are erected outside almost every house and shop, and have surely different meaning from our penjors.

Penjor are tall tapered poles made from bamboo and placed outside Balinese Hindu homes during certain religious holidays to symbolize the dominance of good (dharma) over evil (adharma) as well as to offer thanks to the gods

Kura2 Guide

Having highly interested in Hindu culture since no one knew (actually since my mother forced me to watch Mahabharata with her when I am six, haha), I soon browsed through the web to find all those meanings of that penjors. So again, that penjors are full of religious symbols, and making those required some special talents, so those penjors doesn’t end up of being decorations only as their companions at Jakarta. Penjors are made as a mixture of bamboo, tapered with coconut leaves and various other natural items like Pala Bungkah (tubers and roots like sweet potato, cassava, etc.), Pala Wija (grains that grown on field like rice, corn etc.), Pala Gantung (fruits like banana, oranges, etc.), Balinese traditional cakes and much more. Bigger, more elaborate penjor are a sign of wealth among all although the most simple structures are just as visually effective.

And everything you put on a penjor as religious symbols have different meanings. Some of them are as follows:

  1. Bamboo (and sometimes traditional cakes) are the symbol of the vibrancy of Lord Brahma
  2. Coconut is the symbol of the vibrancy of Lord Rudra
  3. Yellow Clothes, house shrine and the Upakara are the symbol of the vibrancy of Lord Shiva
  4. Pala Bungkah and Pala Gantung are the symbol of the vibrancy of Lord Vishnu
  5. Sugarcane is the symbol of the vibrancy of Lord Shambhu
  6. Rice is the symbol of the vibrancy of Goddess Shri (Lakshmi, or Bhagavati Tara in Buddhism)
  7. White Clothes is the the symbol of the vibrancy of Lord Ishwara

However, although I know that the penjors in Bali are full of religious symbol af their grateful to God, this cannot pull my mind out from the feeling that I have been in a great wedding festivities. Haha. Oh, and The Galungan and The Kuningan are arranged twice a year. You can check their digital calendar here, just in case you wanna live in the bright and liveliness of the festivals, and especially, enjoy the penjors!

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One thought on “The Penjor of Galungan

  1. Mel & Suan says:

    Its amazing with the festivals still practiced in Bali. They seemed to have retained a lot of the Hindu influence that was prevalent in the archipelago before the 1500s.

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