Bali’s Penjor – What are they? 2015.07.27

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If you visit Bali at certain times of the year, you may notice unusual decorations lining the streets. Two times a year, long ornamental bamboo poles can be seen towering outside the entrance to houses and local businesses. These unique structures are known as penjor.

For foreigners who have settled in Bali this is a familiar occurrence, however first-time visitors to Bali might wonder what it's all about.

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What are Penjor?

Penjor are tall tapered poles made from bamboo and placed outside Balinese Hindu homes during certain religious holidays. Due to their length, often up to 10m, the poles droop or hang over the road, creating a very charming effect.

Roughly halfway down the pole a structure also made from bamboo is attached, this is called sanggah cucuk. This may be triangular in shape or it may be a simple "cage" and is used to place offerings in.

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Materials required to make a Penjor

The main material needed to make a penjor is a long, curved bamboo pole. The pole is then decorated with coconut leaves and various other natural items:


  • ○ Pala bungkah (tubers or roots) eg. sweet potato or cassava
     

    ○ Pala wija (grains) eg. rice, corn

  • ○ Pala gantung (fruit) eg. bananas, oranges 

    ○ Traditional Balinese cakes

     ○ 11 Chinese coins

 

At the end of each penjor a decorative sampian is hung made with coconut or palm leaves and flowers.

Ready-made penjor can also be bought for families who don't  have the time to make one from scratch. Bigger, more elaborate penjor are a sign of wealth although the most simple structures are just as visually effective.

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Why are Penjor made?

Penjor are erected to symbolize the dominance of good (dharma) over evil (adharma) as well as to offer thanks to the gods. In addition, penjor show devotion to Sang Hyang Widhi Wasa in his manifestation as Hyang Giri Pati (the God of the mountain).

The curved part of the penjor thus symbolizes Mount Agung, the highest mountain in Bali that is considered the home of the gods.

Offerings are also placed in the sanggah cucuk for the gods when they come down to Earth for Galungan.

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When are Penjor erected?

Penjor are erected outside Balinese Hindu home the Tuesday before Galungan. Galungan is one of the most important religious ceremonies in Bali, and is held roughly twice a year, every 210 days.

During Galungan, it is believed that the spirits of the ancestors visit the earth. The 10-day period ends with Kuningan when the gods and ancestors return to their own realm.

One of the best places to view penjor in all their glory during Galungan is at the traditional village of Penglipuran in Bangli regency.

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Where are Penjor placed?

Penjor are placed outside the street entrance to Balinese homes. Even restaurants and hotels display penjor outside their businesses during the Galungan festivities.

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