Thursday, April 21, 2011

Bali Hindu offerings

As you know Bali has a very rich culture and a complex Hinduism, which influences the people and their daily life enormously. One of the things that are visible in every corner, street, crossroad, shop entrance, kitchen, restaurant floor, on the bar, simply everywhere, is the small colorful offer baskets for the Hindu gods and spirits. This small basket made of palm leaves, are filled with different holy flowers in many colors, rice and with different items, depending on the family or where the offer is placed. Mostly you will see candy, a cookie, fruit, a cigarette or money, again depending on the place of the offer. The Balinese believe in the balance between good and bad, yin and yang, they say one cannot exist without the other. So they will always equally make offerings to the good spirits as well as the bad spirits to please them all. The good spirits are then happy and will give fortune and wealth and the bad spirits are kept satisfied and quiet and will leave the people alone. Every house, room and area has a beautifully painted wooden box hanging on the wall somewhere. This is where they put the offer basket for the good gods. The offer baskets for the bad spirits will be placed on the ground, the ground is considered dirty and belong to the bad spirits. Which you also see when child in Bali will not touch the ground before a ceremony is done at 3 months and it’s rude to sit with your feet towards another person.

The offerings are done several times a day, mostly morning, afternoon and evening, depending also on the family, shop, hotel or other place. Because it is everywhere, at a shop they will offer to the gods of money and business. And at a school it’s important to offer to the gods of knowledge. At the beach you see offer baskets everywhere, to bring good luck, to keep the tourists and surfers safe and to please the gods of the ocean. And so on. This are just the regular days, then you off course also have all the special days of the Balinese calendar, where there will be offered more and with more items and more beautiful baskets. The people have obligations to offer and pray at certain days in the calendar at their family temple, village temple and public temple.

Placing the offering is a small ceremony on its own, the woman will always do it, except when there is no woman present at the time, a man will do it. They put on a sarong and a scarf around the middle, which is also used when you enter a temple in Bali. The basket is placed in the box or on the ground, an incense stick is put in front of it and with the right hand they make a move like they give it to the spirits and say a prayer. The baskets on the ground also get a splash of arak, the local liquor, this is of course for the bad spirits and not for the good. This ritual you can see everywhere at any time of the day, that’s if you are in a shop, at a restaurant, at the beach or just walking on the street. It is beautiful to watch and it makes us actually feel safe here. Outside our door, which is in our neighbor’s garden, there is a box hanging on the wall. Every morning there is an offerbasket and an incense stick inside it, it must be for us and our wellbeing. That’s how it is everywhere, they will offer for themselves, the island and wellbeing, but they also offer for the visitors, strangers and tourists. No wonder we feel safe!

Many people are scared to step on a basket or ruin it, but when the incense stick is burned out, the offer is absorbed/taken by the spirits and the offerbasket is not considered holy anymore. That’s handy to know, because the baskets are often lying in the middle of the sidewalk or exactly where you drive your scooter. I also wonder if they take back the cigarettes and money…never saw anybody do it yet. The dogs are anyway happy for the cookies and the rice.
For the bigger ceremonies also bigger offerings are maid. The woman will bring baskets with fruit and food, carrying it on their head to the temple/ceremony. Men will offer an animal, a pig, chicken or rooster, sometimes also done by a cockfight. For some special ceremonies the woman carry big creations on their head, made of fruit and flowers. The people will eat all the food, fruit and meat when the ceremony is finished, the spirits already had their share.

As you already can imagine the offerings are a big part of the Balinese Hinduism and the people’s daily routines and traditions. It is also a visual and artistic beauty for others visiting Bali, because you can see the offerings and the offerings being made at all times and at all places.

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