“It is for good reason that the Indonesian island of Bali is often referred to as the “Paradise of the Gods” for the Balinese are very spiritual people who, mainly, follow the Hindu religion in which saying prayers and making offerings to the Gods are everyday events.”
Each year the Balinese hold sacred several Holy Days, one of which is the celebration of Galungan and ten days later Kuningan, which celebrates the victory of good over evil. Galungan Day is celebrated 210 days after the previous ceremony.
There are a variety of ceremonies that are performed on different parts of the island, but for the residents of the traditional village of Bongan in Tabanan, West Bali their celebration centres around the throwing of money in a ritual known as Mesuryak.
Mesuryak, which is derived from the word “suryak” means “cheer”.
“According to the tradition, some local people throw money into the air whilst other jostle to pick up the money and cheer with joy.”
Nowadays it is common for the young people of the village gather in the front yards of wealthier members of the Bongan community. After a while, the owner of the house eventually appears on the front veranda and scatters coins which causes all of those gathered to scramble for a share of the spoils.
The reasons behind the Mesuryak ritual is as a means of providing support for the return trip of deceased ancestors who have lingered on earth and their home villages for the ten days between Galungan and Kuningan.
To honour one’s ancestors plays an important role in local beliefs, and the funeral process is a complicated affair, which is dependent on one’s status in the community. It is not uncommon to witness large funeral processions in Bali which can attract hundreds of participants.
During the Galungan and Kuningan celebrations each family, dependant upon their individual wealth place sums of money in their yards for the use and pleasure of the now departed souls of their ancestors.
These Mesuryak rituals are believed to endow participants with a sense of kinship and togetherness and to improve one’s relationship with God, one’s family and neighbours and even the universe.
The celebrations begin with prayers at the temple, after which villagers return carrying their offerings before performing the light-hearted Mesuryak ritual.