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Kuningan in Bali-Gods Leave at Noon Sharp

The holy cycle of Galungan and Kuningan are Bali-Hindu celebration of the victory of dharma over adharma. It is the period each year when god and ancestors visit the earthly plane to re-purify the world and bestow blessings. It is a time for families to gather at ancestral temples and a time of personal reflection and renewal.

The predominantly Hindu Island of Bali celebrated the religious holiday of Kuningan on Saturday, 12 August 2023. Friday, one day before Kuningan, marked Penampahan Kuningan, falls once every 210 days on the Balinese saka pawukon calendar (Wage Wuku Kuningan). Penampahan Kuningan is a day dedicated to cleansing one’s self of impurities in anticipation of Kuningan celebrated on the following day.

The root meaning of the term “penampahan” is linked to the base root of “tempah” meaning to “cut” or “slaughter.” Devout Hindus in Bali use the day before Kuningan to make a “break” with all past elements linked with humanity’s dark side, including Ahaṁkāra M(egotism), Momo Angkara (greed), and other items connected to the “dark side” of the human spirit.

Breaking with darkness and negativity can be done through a cleansing Maybyakala Ceremony, but more fundamentally through personal self-correction of distancing yourself from any tendencies towards animosity and harshness by cultivating feelings of kindness and goodwill. 

As explained in sacred Lontar Sundarigama tenets, the goal of Penampahan Kuningan is “pamyakala kala malaradan” – to lose and destroy the coarse and animal-like parts of our personality. 

At its core, Penampahan Kuningan celebrates the victory of humanity’s obligation (‘Dharma” – what should be done) over humanity’s failings and (“Adharma” – what should not be done); good over evil; and lightness over darkness. This period is designated for abandoning the “Ahaṁkāra” and “Momo Angkara” that afflict human perfection. 

Panampahan Kuningan and the contemplation accompanying the day pave the way for devout Hindu Balinese to move forward into Kuningan and the following days. The devout are mentally cleansed and forearmed to be reborn with a clear and clean mind, avoiding any negative elements of human existence to pursue a more devout lifestyle.

During a ten-day cycle that started with Galungan on 02 August 2023, the Almighty – Ida Sanghyang Widhi Wasa and the manifestations of other deities, including Bhatara-Bhatari, and Dewa Hyang Pitara descend to earth to bestow their gifts on humanity.

Offerings of fragrant yellow rice (nasi kuning) – symbolizing both prosperity and thanksgiving, are prepared as sacred offerings to thank the gods for continuing beneficence and in the hope that the gods will respond with blessings of well-being, fertility, and good fortune in the future.

On the actual day of Kuningan, carefully prepared offerings (bebantenan) are placed at temples and strategic points in each household from midnight until mid-day. Kuningan prayers and the presentation of sacred offerings conclude at mid-day when it is believed that the gods and familial ancestors have returned to heaven. 

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