Galungan in Bali: The Torture of Small White Birds

Galungan in Bali


Every ten months, the Balinese Hindus celebrate Galungan. When I get out from my morning surf in Canguu, hundreds of men and women dressed in white were shuttling from temple to temple, piled atop one another on two-person motorbikes. The days before, in front of every home and shop, men were preparing for the festivities, bending long, decorative bamboo poles that would dangle festive ornaments over the road. The poles are called penjors, Bali’s bamboo equivalent to a Christmas tree though they look more like fishing rods that have a tall tale at one end.


By noon, my wife and I made it to Seminyak Beach and walked toward the party town of Kuta. We came across a procession of men and women balancing what looked like decorative urns on their head. A few holy men sat on the sand between their flock and the ocean. They poured holy water on the offerings they had made to the gods, the same offerings that sat in front of every storefront and on the dashboards of all the taxi cabs–palm leaf baskets stocked with the trinity of rice, flowers, and betel.


Galungan in Bali


Then the men stood up and walked toward the mighty surf. The spiritual leader carried a small white chick in one hand and in the other, he held a white duck. He squeezed the two birds together as if it were something he had learned in a religious biology course. Then he swung the birds backward and launched them twenty feet into the surf.


The congregants cheered.


“What the fuck?” I said to my wife.


The duck made it out from the whitewash first. The chick was knocked down by the waves and after a long struggle made it back to the feet of another holy man. One worshipper picked up the duck, ripped out some feathers, gave them to the wind, and hurled the bird into the shallows again. The bird bounced off the sand, stood up, and got slammed by a wave. The same thing happened to the chick, but because of its size, the attempt to escape from the surf played out more violently.


Galungan in Bali


Finally, the congregation marched back toward the temple to continue with their worship, but a few kids chased the nearly drowned birds across the beach. One sadistic boy, no older than six, picked the chick up by its wings, bounced it like a slinky, and tossed it up over his head, allowing the poor bird to crash to the earth. The duck ran for safety.


All of the adults were laughing. “What are you doing?” I said to the kid when he went for the duck. He laughed, grabbed the bird, threw him into his sack, and ran back toward the temple with the tortured bird to celebrate Galungan in Bali.


Is Galungan in Bali a beautiful tradition or PETA problem?


Posted on by Noah Lederman in Asia, Somewhere

2 Responses to Galungan in Bali: The Torture of Small White Birds

  1. Sam

    You know what the duck says….”that’s all folks!”

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