What are the offerings on the floor in Bali?

Religion in Bali stops traffic, literally. There is always a celebration going on so it’s common to see traditionally dressed Balinese walking with gifts perched on their heads or a tray with offerings known as ‘canang sari’

With over 300 ceremonies in Bali a year (not including individual family ceremonies, births, deaths, marriages and temple anniversaries) you will be sure to see something, hear something and smell the mesmerising incense on your travels to Bali Island.

Offerings take place at central focused points, depending on what the offering is for. It could be at the entrance to a home, the start of the laneway, the steps of a community temple or the middle of a major intersection. 

Crossroads are literally the place where intersecting worlds meet and because of this they hold deep significance to the Balinese people. During big occasions main roads which can often be cut off for an entire day or two and entire villages shut down their stores and business to attend ceremony.

The Balinese practice their own version of Indian Hindu. It melds with their own ancient beliefs that incorporates a deep sense of inner spirituality and the divine balance of the three realms; the gods in the section above the sky, the people and energy of the earth, and the spirits who live below. Keeping a balance with yourself and with the three worlds is the key to a happiness, therefore the people of Bali embrace, celebrate and nourish all three.

Understanding the customs and rhythm of daily life in Bali takes some time, and some things can never quite be explained, maybe that’s the case with all religions and cultures. 

The first thing people notice when they arrive in Bali is the daily gifts, usually because they step on one. The little woven leaf baskets with flowers and incense are just about everywhere, in the middle of intersections, on footpaths, sitting on a wall, on the road curb, on a shop counter, on a dune of sand at the beach or in a little open box on a wall. The name for them is canang sari (pronounced Cha-nung). Made of tightly woven pandan leaves or coconut fronds they contain an offering of gratitude. Their purpose is to be beautiful and fragrant and satisfying, to in turn receive beauty, sweetness and a satisfying life.

In a similar concept to the Japanese Ramon bowl, the canang holds the world in replica, with included elements to represent the three realms, flower petals to represent North South East and West and gifts to represent the sky, the moon, the earth. 

The flowers and careful weave make up the beauty, the squiggly soft pandan, moss like curls and incense are the fragrance. What you use to satisfy the basket is completely up to you. Fruit pieces; a tiny wedge of watermelon, a slice of banana, a slither of apple, tobacco, rice, biscuit, coins, a candy, it really doesn’t matter, as long as it sustains a desire or deep need. The flowers, incense and pandan are constant, the rest is completely up to the giver and are almost impossible to guess the reason for the offering unless you ask the person who made it, even then, the answer might be…vague. Restaurants and eateries will usually offer something from their menu, families might offer sweets. 

Offerings are given to either the sprits of the earth to keep them satisfied below, theses canang are the ones you will step on, cycle over or get squashed by car tyres. There are also offerings of gratitude made to the spirits. These are elevated, either by placing on a wall, a temple statue, a hutch, or, if on the street, a bucket or tin with a pole and bracket that lifts the gifts up to the heavens. 

If you step on a canang, kick it or trip over it, don’t feel guilty, once they are blessed with a circle of sacred water and splashed with a blessing or prayer they are completed and no longer sacred, (they are still beautiful through so maybe don’t step on them on purpose).

Watching an offering being placed is a moving and magical experience, as prayers and thanks are whispered with graceful and dancelike hand and arm movements. Finally lines of holy water are traced around the offering in a circle for protection. Added to this might be some scattered raw rice or tiny rice portions on 1cm square banana leaf plates. The blessing is quick and the dogs and roosters are just as quick to close in, so enjoy the sight while it lasts. 

What are the offerings on the floor in Bali

Offerings are made after a meal is prepared and before it is eaten. It is usual for a canang to be placed in multiple places around the home, in different compass points and entrances as well as the main entrance (i.e. the road). It is possible to see a glowing bundle of lit incense on the tray, waiting to be threaded into each offering. The prayer or thanks is given after waving the incense stick around in just the right way for the smoke to curl elegantly and enticingly.

Large ceremonies offer coconuts, whole fruits such as pineapples, pears and apples, eggs, live chickens and ducks in little woven cages (it’s okay they get released afterwards) and cooked rice in intricately woven square pouches. Eggs, cooked rice and desserts are usually placed in plastic bags so the Bali dogs can’t run off with them.

The sacred water comes either a priest’s blessing or from a holy source such as Tirta Empal, where there are fountain spouts especially for taking water home. Each family stores their water inside the home compound’s shrine, this one sits outside the separate closed off family temple section. The water (stored in whatever plastic vessel you have on hand) is hidden in a tiny space with doors at the highest point of the structure.

What Are Balinese Offerings Called?

When you visit Bali, you will see small offerings placed on the ground, walls, or shrines. These offerings are called banten in Balinese. The word banten may come from the Sanskrit word bali, which means tribute, obligation, or gift. Alternatively, it may be derived from the word enten, which means to wake up or be conscious. Regardless of the origin, banten is an important part of Balinese culture.

The most common type of banten is called canang sari. Canang sari is a small, square-shaped basket made of woven palm or banana leaves. It contains various items such as flowers, rice, incense, and sometimes even money or cookies. Canang sari is used to honour the gods and spirits and is placed in various locations throughout the home, temple, and village.

Another type of banten is called gebogan. Gebogan is a tall, pyramid-like offering made of fruits, cakes, and other items. It is usually presented during special ceremonies or events such as weddings or funerals.

Offerings are also made using other materials such as bamboo, coconut leaves, and even paper. These offerings are usually made for specific purposes, such as to ask for protection, good luck, or prosperity.

Why Do the Balinese Give Offerings?

Offerings play a crucial role in Balinese Hinduism, which is a unique blend of Hinduism, Buddhism, and animism. The Balinese believe that every object, animate or inanimate, has a spiritual essence, and that it is important to maintain harmony and balance between the physical and spiritual worlds.

Offerings are made to appease the gods and spirits, and to express gratitude for their blessings. The Balinese believe that the gods and spirits are constantly present in their lives, and that they need to be respected and honoured through rituals and offerings.

Offerings are also a way of seeking protection and assistance from the gods and spirits. The Balinese believe that the gods and spirits can help them in various ways, such as curing illnesses, providing good harvests, and protecting them from harm.

The Balinese also believe that offerings are a way of purifying their souls and achieving spiritual growth. By making offerings, they are expressing their devotion and commitment to their faith, and seeking to deepen their understanding of the spiritual world.

What Are Flower Offerings in Bali?

If you have ever visited Bali, you have probably noticed the beautiful flower offerings that are placed on the ground everywhere. These offerings are an essential part of Balinese Hinduism and are made daily to thank the gods and spirits for their blessings and protection.

The offerings are called Canang Sari, which means “small palm-leaf basket tray” and “essence.” They are made from woven palm leaves and are filled with various items, including flowers, rice, incense, and sometimes even food. The offerings are usually made by women, who take great care in arranging the petals and leaves to create beautiful patterns and designs.

What Flowers Are Used in Bali Offerings

What Flowers Are Used in Bali Offerings?

The flowers used in Bali offerings are significant and symbolize different gods and spirits. Here are some of the most commonly used flowers:

FrangipaniRepresents Shiva (Mahadeva)
HibiscusRepresents Dewi Sri, the goddess of rice and fertility
MarigoldRepresents the sun and is used in offerings to ward off evil spirits
LotusRepresents purity and enlightenment

The flowers used in offerings can vary depending on the occasion and the gods or spirits being honored. However, they are always chosen for their beauty and significance in Balinese Hinduism.

What Happens If You Step on an Offering in Bali?

When in Bali, you will notice that offerings are everywhere. These offerings are sacred, and it is important to respect them. It is crucial to understand what happens if you step on an offering in Bali.

Firstly, it is considered disrespectful to step on an offering in Bali. The Balinese people believe that the offerings are a way to communicate with the gods. Stepping on an offering is seen as a sign of disrespect towards the gods and the Balinese people.

Secondly, it is believed that stepping on an offering can bring bad luck. The Balinese people believe that the offerings have the power to protect them from evil spirits. If you step on an offering, it is believed that you are disrupting the balance and harmony in the spiritual world. This can lead to bad luck and misfortune.

Lastly, stepping on an offering can cause physical harm. The offerings are often made with sharp objects such as bamboo sticks or thorns. If you step on an offering, you may injure yourself.

It is important to be mindful of your surroundings when in Bali. Always watch where you are stepping to avoid stepping on an offering. If you accidentally step on an offering, it is best to apologize and make amends by making your own offering or giving a small donation to the local temple.

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Jarrod Partridge

Jarrod has spent six years living in Bali, visiting every corner of the stunning island while immersing himself in the local culture. He fell in love there - with the football team Bali United - and spent many an evening with the locals, cheering the team on to two Liga 1 championships.

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