P: Spirit of Bali

 Everywhere Bali, we step over a tiny offering basket, a bounty of incense, rice, and flowers ands something sweet.  Called ‘canang sari ‘, they give Bali a distinctive sweet floral smoky-ness.

For the Balinese, this daily practice is basically a ritual of giving back what has been given to you by the Gods. It is an offering of gratitude to the richness of life. Making offerings appeases the spirits and brings prosperity and good health to the family.

To the people we’ve met, it seems this practice is a very natural and ordinary thing to maintain a good relationship between people and spirits.

As many Balinese believe, the Hindu trinity of Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu are all manifestations of one supreme spirit. Good spirits come from the mountains, and the seas bring demons and ogres.

In Bali, where the mountains meet the ocean, sits a perfect junction of the two.  This sense of seeking balance is ultimately what drives Balinese life

In addition, there are the spirits of the dead. Balinese believe in reincarnation of the spirit.  The spirit separates from the body is an evolving process that (like rice or water or the moon) is but merely a continuation of cycles.

All basic principles in Balinese Hinduism revolve around obtaining balance and harmony between the different elements in life and afterlife. The key to balance in life is obtained through a harmonious relationship between the spirits other human beings, and the nature that surrounds us.

Offerings are made twice daily; in the morning and late afternoon, by every household and business. Sometimes it’s actually difficult just to walk on the busy sidewalk in downtown Ubud without accidentally stepping on them!

Women do most of the offerings and they have such artistic sensibility.  I find it extraordinary how many different types of offering baskets we’ve seen all made with the same materials.

Everywhere you go in Bali you can find women sitting around chatting while putting together quite exquisite baskets and trays and other ornamentations for ceremony.

Creating offerings, although perhaps mundane to the Baliense, captured my heart. The more closely I looked at the importance of them the more their beauty and simplicity intrigued me.

We asked our (patient!) hostess Made (sounds like MA- DAY) to teach us how to make them.

Some baskets are simple squares made from young palm leaf, while others are more elaborate decorative creations.

We spent about an hour, with her and I have a newfound appreciation for the offerings.  The details and time involved are amazing. At the end of our session, I held up my off-centered slightly wonky offering basket to Made.  She said “You Ok!  Not good, but not very bad.”  Emma was much more adept and earned a “She get good!”

Made said that her household requires 22 different locations for offerings.  A woman of the household makes these twice a day.

She fills the offering tray with flowers, rice and stick of incense. There are special prayers, hand motions and flicking of holy water.

For me it is a beautiful moment, a glimpse inside the daily spirit of Bali.


8 thoughts on “P: Spirit of Bali

  1. Thank you for sharing all this wonderful information about the offerings.
    I love this idea and the simplicity of the women sharing time together making the offerings.
    They are beautiful and seem so full of love.

    I am enjoying my travels with you.

    Keep on sharing – I love it!


    • Hi Rene-
      we were in Ubud (the setting for Eat.Pray.Love) just a magical place! now we are in Singapore before heading out to Borneo on Thurs.
      love p

  2. Hi Patty,

    I read this entry just after returning home from ten days in Colorado with my kids, attending the final days and death of my dad. I was caught by the ideas of balance and offering. Thank you for sharing these images and ideas from across the world–they were very comforting.

    Love, Michelle

    P.S. How do I get in touch with you when I get to Singapore? I have Monday free all day.

    • M-
      The people of Bali seem to have worked out a very complicated yet workable model of the universe– one that makes much more sense about life and death than our perspective. It does involve magic, spirits, demons, and luck. I think going through an experience like you’ve just had, these things are ordinary yes? Sending you my love and thoughts- p

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