BANTEN – Balinese Offerings – you can’t miss them
Wherever you go, you will see little baskets on the floor with incense sticks and little goodies such as sweets, fruits and sometimes even some money and a cigarette. In front of shops and homes, in the middle of cross roads and junctions, and on temple shrines outside and even inside offices, restaurants and basically wherever you go.
Why do the Balinese provide offerings?
For one simple reason: It brings delight to the 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)”
This is one of the lines Khrisna told Arjuna, describing what God expects from an offering, and is quoted from the Bhagavad-Gita. This message is still well executed by all the Balinese throughout the island. Although, there are many varieties of simple offerings to extravagant ones that can be found today in Bali. Each of them must consist of all the components that have been foretold: Items used in the offering are natural materials that are used and found in everyday life, such as sewn palm leaves, colorful flowers, and sometimes little pieces of food or sweets.
Types of Banten / Offerings in Bali
Canang Sari / Canang (smaller sized offering)
Have you seen a small tray made of finely cut pandan leaves in the form of a square filled with colorful flowers, sometimes snacks, sweets, and burned incense? It’s a widely used offering found either perched on a small shrine or placed on the ground. If you see a canang sari as you’re walking, DO NOT step over or step on it as long as the incense stick is till burning..
Typically, Canang Sari will be left to stay for one night on the shrine or on the floor after praying, and then removed to be replaced with a 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 point to the east, a symbol of Iswara (Shiva), one of the leaders of the Gods.
- Red flowers point to the south, a symbol of Brahma, referred to as the progenitor or great grandsire of all human beings.
- Yellow flowers point to the west, a symbol of Mahadeva, who manifests in the form of a man with the third eye on his forehead.
- Blue or green flowers point to the north, a symbol of Vishnu, who is described as a blue being, holding various flowers in his four hands.
Banten Tegeh / Gebogan
The most spectacular offering that you would find in Bali, where Balinese women carry a stack of food and fruits on their head while walking towards the temple. Mostly, Banten Tegeh are presented during a village temple celebration, named “Odalan”. The process is a bit more complicated, starting by creating a stable base made of wood, and a pike in the centre, where a banana stem act as a way to stick all the food using bamboo skewers. Last but not least, a canang sari will be placed on top of this mountain of beautifully arranged stack of fruits.
A type of placemat fashioned from palm leaves and bamboo sticks used as the base for offerings during Galungan day. It looks like a mat hanging on temporary shrines, decorated with colored, dried leaves.
This offering usually comes in the shape of a triangle and presented inside the canang sari. Young girls are taught to create this basic type of offering before moving on to creating other offerings with more complicated designs and materials.
Considered as one of the more important offerings for big religious ceremonies. All the materials include a small bag of rice, duck egg, coconuts, canang sari, and other sacred tools are put in a small basket, again made of sewn palm leaves.
Madya or Utama
A unique offering made from colourful cakes and rice dough shaped into shapes of animals, plants or even humans. This offering is not so commonly used for ceremonies, therefore it is only done by specially trained members of high caste women. The process can take time for as short as week or as long as even several weeks to prepare just the rice cake. The result can be pretty tall 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.
5 quick facts on Balinese offerings:
- Upakara is made up of two words, upa and kara, and is defined as “something related to work by hand”, namely the offering itself, or banten. There are many types of offerings, varying in materials, shapes, and purposes.
- The Balinese women are in charge of creating banten in their family; and so this is an essential skill every Balinese female must have, called “Mejejaitan”.
- An offering can not be presented to the Gods and Goddesses more than once a day.
- Worshippers are expected to create an offering as beautiful as they can be. Beautiful arrangement is hoped to delight the Gods and Goddess, so that all their wishes may be granted.
- The Balinese are known for principles of balance and harmony that are applied in many aspects of their lives. Thus, offerings are not only made for the Gods of positive forces (“Bethara” refers to God and “Bethari” is Goddess), but are also crafted for negative forces known as “Butha” and “Kala”. Offerings for Bethara Bethari are always presented on a higher platform, while for Butha Kala it will be laid down on the ground.