Balinese Offerings

It Brings Delight to Gods

“Whosoever offers to me with devotion a leaf, a flower, a fruit, or water, that offering of love, of the pure heart I accept (ix:26)”

That is one of the lines told by Khrisna to Arjuna, describing what God expects from an offering quoted from the Bhagavad-Gita. This message is still well executed by all the Balinese throughout the island. Although, there are many varieties of offerings from simple to extravagant can be found today in Bali. Each of them must consist of all the components that have been specified by Krishna.

Quick facts on Balinese offerings:

  • The items used in the offering are always natural, the things that they are using and find in everyday life. The component could be a small plate made of sewn palm leaves, colourful flowers, and sometimes little pieces of food or sweets.
  • An offering can not be presented to the Gods/ Goddess more than once.
  • The worshippers must make it as beautiful as they can. Beautiful arrangement is hoped to delight the Gods and Goddess, so that all wishes may be granted. For practical reasons, there are many warung/ street vendors specially selling ceremonial needs, including offerings, this store called “warung canang”.
  • Balinese are known for the balance or harmony principals which applied in so many aspects of their lives. Thus, offerings not only made for the Gods with positive forces manifestation or called “Bethara” means God and “Bethari” means Goddess, but it is also crafted for the negative forces known as “Butha” and “Kala”. Offerings for the Gods are always presented on a higher platform, while for Butha Kala it will be laid down on the ground.
  • The general word for offerings in Bali is “Banten”, and it has many types of them depending on the materials, form and purposes. The Balinese women are in charge of creating banten in their family; this works called “Mejejaitan” and considered as one of the essential skills that every girl must-have.

Types of Banten / Offerings in Bali

  1. Canang Sari / Canang is the most widely used offering that can be found in Bali. It’s a small plate made of palm leaves (it can be formed in square, round or other shapes with 10-15 cm wide) filled with colourful flowers, finely sliced pandan leaves, tiny snacks/ sweets, and burned incense. If you see canang sari on the ground, DO NOT step over or step on it as it is considered disrespect to the culture and the religion—especially the ones with incense that is still burning. Say sorry if you did it accidentally.
    Typically, Canang Sari will be left to stay for one night in the shrine or on the floor after it is being prayed and removed to be replaced with the new one the next day. The colourful flowers are not randomly chosen; they have different philosophies and meanings, which are also placed in specific directions.
    White flowers that point to the east is a symbol of Iswara who is also known as Shiva, one of the leaders of the Gods.
    Red flowers that point to the south are symbols of Brahma. Brahma is often referred to as the progenitor or great grandsire of all human beings. Brahmā usually manifested in four heads, four faces, and four arms. Holds no weapons, but a wand, a book, a string of prayer beads and the Vedas.
    Yellow flowers that point to the west are symbols of Mahadeva. Mahadeva is usually manifest in the form of a man with the third eye on his forehead, the snake Vasuki around his neck, the crescent moon adorning, the holy river Ganga flowing from his matted hair, the Trishula as his weapon and the Damaru as his instrument.
    Blue or green flowers that point to the north as a symbol of Vishnu. He is manifested as a blue being, holding a lotus flower in the lower left hand, the mace in the lower right hand, the conch in the upper left hand and the discus weapon in the top right hand.
  2. Lamak is another sewn palm leaf offering made during the special occasion including Galungan day. It looks like a mat hanging on temporary shrines, decorated with colourful dried leaves that have been coloured.
  3. Sampian usually came in the shape of a triangle and presented themselves inside the canang sari. It looks pretty modest and straightforward; therefore, little girls are trained to create this type of offering before later in the future create other offerings with more complicated designs and materials.
  4. Daksina is considered as one of the most important offerings for big religious ceremonies. All the materials like a small bag of rice, duck egg, coconut, canang sari, and other sacred tools are put in a small basket made of sewn palm leaves.
  5. Banten Tegeh, this one is probably the most spectacular offering that you can find in Bali. If you ever see Balinese ladies carrying a mountain of foods or fruits on their head while walking to the temple, this is it. Mostly Banten Tegeh are presented during the celebration of the village temple “Odalan”. To create this offering the process is a bit more complicated, starting by creating a stable base made of wood, and a pike in the centre which later will be impaled by the banana stem as the media to stick all the food using bamboo skewers. Last but not least, a canang sari will be placed on top of this mountain of food.
  6. Madya or Utama is a unique offering made from colourful cakes and rice dough shaped into many forms like animals, plants or even humans. This offering is not so commonly used for ceremonies, therefore help from an offering specialist with members of high caste women is needed. The process can take time for a week or even several weeks to prepare the rice cake. The result can be pretty huge with the height up to three or even five meters. The whole madya symbolizes the Balinese concept of universe which consists of the underworld, the world and heaven.

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