Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
: We awoke our second morning in Bali to find in our entryway a rosette-shaped palm frond filled with colorful flowers, rice and burning incense. This was the first of many hundreds of offerings we would see around town, in the rice fields, along the roads and even on motorbikes. We knew these were ways of showing religious devotion, but little else. So we asked around, did a little research and found out about these offerings were beautiful expressions of the Hindu religion.
Offerings are an integral part of Balinese daily living and show reverence to the gods. The handcrafted offerings are made out of natural materials and are placed at the entrance to homes, at family and main temples, before and on statues, even at corners of intersections to ward off accidents and aid in protection. The offerings are blessed and then left untouched and allowed to be destroyed by the elements.
The offering left at our front stoop that first day and every other day we’ve been here is called canang sari. We learned it is the simplest daily household offering, and is given to the supreme god as a form of thanking him for the peace he has given to the world. We think this means our neighbors are asking the gods & blessing our home for continued peace. What a beautiful message, delivered by a lovely old woman who smiles kindly. We couldn’t have been more humbled by this gesture.
More complex daily and ceremony offerings are a part of Hinduism in Bali as well. Today (February 19) for example, is the celebration of money. Many businesses in the main area of Ubud are closed, and the ones that are open have women inside preparing dozens of these little offering parcels. Many of them are placed around the shop and outside the front door, piled high on the sidewalk. Today marks the 8th day we’re here, and already there have been 3 big ceremony days. It’s estimated there can be as many as 180 ceremonies a year, celebrating the gods, important dates in humans’ lives, priests, ancestors and devils.
We learned that a household will have one person (usually a woman) dedicated to preparing the daily offerings, and she could easily spend an hour a day preparing and making the blessings. On the high days, the process of preparing an adequate number of offerings may take her up to four hours. Distributing them to various temples, ashrams and shrines takes additional hours, and we’ve seen women in ornate ceremonial garb across town carrying what appear to be extra large serving trays. These women are carrying their offering parcels to various spots across town, and blessing them once there.
Extremely labor intensive, each offering is hand made and constructed out of palm or banana leaf. When completed they look like exquisite origami containers that then house the actual offering. Typical flowers used in offerings are hydrangeas, plumeria, marigold, sandat and pacah – all brilliant colors that represent the chakras. Offerings can include token money like Chinese coins for prosperity or food items such rice (which the chickens outside our home love to peck). Incense is lighted and placed in the offering as the blessing is made.
We’ve really enjoyed looking for new offerings near our home and across town, and feel the warmth of the Balinese people with each one we discover. Prepared with love and with prayers for peacefulness, these beautiful offerings are one of the many things we’ve come to love about Bali and the generous people here.