Unique in Indonesia for its religion, Bali is a place where spirituality and daily life are completely interrelated.
Many ceremonies – many gods
If you visit Bali you will quickly notice the ceremony and rituals that take place all around you on a daily basis . Its religion is one of many things that make Bali distinct from the rest of the country. Whilst Indonesia is mainly a Muslim country, the majority of Balinese people practise Balinese Hinduism – a mix of Hinduism, Buddhism and animism.
The Balinese believe that the spirit of the gods is present in all things, from everyday objects to nature. For example, they believe that good spirits can be found in the mountains, whereas the spirits of the sea are demons and ogres. Mount Agung, the highest mountain in Bali, is considered very sacred because it is the home of the gods.
For this reason it’s important to maintain good relationships between humans and the spirit world; in the hope that the good spirits will bring good fortune and health to family members, and that the bad spirits will stay away.
Art as prayer
One of the ways that the Balinese do this is by “canang sari” or offerings. If you walk down the street in Bali you are sure to see (and possibly nearly stand on!) small woven leaf baskets sitting on the pavement. These are the offerings to the gods that the Balinese put out around twice a day.
You will often see women sitting on the door steps of shops or outside their homes with baskets of palm leaves and flowers as they create these miniature works of art. Indeed, some women spend a lot of their lives making this important element of Balinese culture.
A world of flowers and colour
The offerings consist of a basket, which is made of palm leaves pinned together with small bamboo pins. Inside there is always areca nut, betel nut and lime. The colours of these things are important because they represent Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu – the three gods of the Hindi trinity.
Inside the offering can also be found rice, flowers and other small food items such as peanuts or rice crackers. Once they are made, the offerings will be placed around the home in different spots.
Special hand gestures and prayers are made as the offerings are placed and a stick of burning incense is also placed on top. Offerings can also be found at temples, outside shops, on statues, and even at crossroads to help prevent accidents!
On special ceremony days such as a weddings, cremations or important celebrations such as “Nyepi” – Balinese New Year-, the offerings are much more elaborate and bigger than the day-to-day ones. It’s not unusual on these days to see women sitting on the back of a motorbike carrying large offerings stacked on their heads!
Balinese culture is rich with ceremony and ritual. The beautiful offerings that can be found everywhere are a good example of how this is incorporated into Balinese daily life.
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