Bali, Offerings and Squirrels

Canang Sari offerings are well-known symbols of Bali, but alongside these daily Hindu offerings to the Gods, other older traditions remain in place. Ancestor worship and animist beliefs are sometimes separate from the cosmos of Hinduism, or are incorporated into it. Offerings of cigarettes, biscuits, coffee and alcohol are commonly seen on these shrines, things you might need in the afterlife. These offerings may also be strategically placed under trees to appease the mischievous underground and evil tree spirits who may play havoc with your business and lives. I’ve also seen some Balinese sprinkle cheap alcohol around the base of large trees to keep these naughty spirits at bay.

Early morning offering under a shady Banyan tree

While capturing the above offering, a cute looking squirrel arrived to take a sip of coffee. Perhaps a re-incarnation of Kak or Nini (grandfather and grandmother in Balinese).

Later that morning, the little tray had been engulfed by canang sari, the floral offerings bought to this spot by the young women who work here or live nearby.

Canang Sari, Rosetta’s restaurant, Sindhu Beach, Bali
Canang sari- by the sea.

“The plantain squirreloriental squirrel or tricoloured squirrel, is found in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand in a wide range of habitats: forests, mangroves, parks, gardens, and agricultural areas. Fruit farmers consider them to be pests. Its diet consists mostly of leaves and fruits, but it also eats insects and bird eggs. It is known to break open twigs that contain ant larvae to eat them. It can eat fruits much bigger than itself, such as mangoes, jackfruit or coconuts. It is very quick and agile in trees, able to jump a few metres between trees, and rarely wanders on the ground.”

Also partial to a sip of coffee.

 

The Other Bali

It’s almost as if there are two Balis living side by side: sometimes they collide and intertwine, but most of the time, they exist in different time zones and spiritual planes. I’m always searching for the old Bali, or the other Bali, once the allure of warm swimming pools, unlimited breakfast banqueting and cheap trinkets begins to pale. The other Bali is always there: you can enter at any time just by going in the opposite direction, walking away from the tourist enclaves with their playgrounds full of bling and beer. Walk in the opposite direction, down concrete lanes and into local suburbs or onto the beach before the sun worshippers arrive, or into a hidden Pura ( Hindu temple)  or an unassuming warung,  a simple tin shed right on the sand for a coffee and a chat. Walking away might take you into the local Pasar (market) to buy a hand of bananas, or past a dozing grandmother, ancient, honey skinned and worn out, dressed in faded kabaya and brown ikat sarong, long silver hair wrapped turban style, curled up in sleep on the front porch, or past younger women, balancing enamel trays full of Canang Sari, flowers arranged in little palm leaf baskets, thoughtfully engrossed in prayer as they make their daily offerings to the gods and their ancestors. If you head to the beach at dawn in the hope of catching a glimpse of the holy mountain, Gunung Agung,  on the horizon, you’ll find the dawn brigade, a busy uniformed crew of sweepers and cleaners, slowly but methodically removing leaves and rubbish, all signs of yesterday bagged up and taken away, the sand raked then watered down.

Boats at dawn, Sanur, Bali. 2018

This year marks an anniversary for me. I first came to Bali in 1978. Over the last forty years, Bali has changed enormously, and like all change, the blessings are mixed but much of it has been beneficial to the Balinese. During the next fortnight, I hope to relate some stories in the words of the locals, mostly on the theme of tradition and change, a topic close to my heart. Chatting to the locals comes easily: I’ll need a bit more bravado to seek permission for some portraits to accompany the stories.

Morning offering, canang sari, by the sea. Soon to be washed away.

Dawn, Sanur, Bali 2018

In a Balinese Garden. Ubud

At the end of a busy day in Bali, often involving far more walking in the heat than one initially intended, returning to a peaceful, quiet and well maintained garden is a godsend. A beautiful garden has become a prerequisite when choosing accommodation in Bali, especially when visiting Ubud.

Entrance to the pool in Honeymoon Two.

Unfortunately, Ubud has been loved to death. A private courtyard garden blocks out the pandemonium, the snarl of traffic, the fumes of motor bikes and the endless stream of slow walking tourists hunting for gewgaws, monkeys and food. This is my farewell tribute to one of Ubud’s most delightful gardens. Aging and velvet mossed Buddhist and Hindu statues, inviting seating platforms, beautifully carved and painted doors, screening plants and tropical flowers, archways and entrances and stands of bamboo, evoke a traditional Bali midst a heavily urbanised town. The daily noiseless tending of tropical plants by gardeners and the morning placement of fresh hibiscus flowers and canang sari on all the statues and family temple have called me back to the charming Honeymoon Guesthouse year after year. Situated in Jalan Bisma, development and congested traffic has finally overwhelmed this once tranquil street. I cannot return. My love of Ubud now dwells in the past. I can revisit her there.

Things become old very quickly in Ubud’s tropical environment.

A big suksma ( Balinese for thankyou, best said with hands in prayer position) to all the gardeners of Bali. Without these steady, quiet and humble workers, Bali would not be so inviting.

The following collage is a media file. Tour the garden by opening the first photo and following the arrows.

 

Balinese Ritual and Ceremony. Flowers and Farewell

Frangipani blossoms drop, perfumed molting from gnarled old trees, delicate offspring in contrast to their parent. I can’t pass by without scooping one or two from the ground. Their perfume is strong but fleeting.

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Canang Sari pile up on temple ledges

Bali is awash with other more colourful flowers as the daily ritual of canang sari (pronounced chanang) forms the central practice of Hinduism here. The practice is simultaneously private and public, a gracious display of personal spirituality taking place in open aired temples, at large intricately carved district Pura or smaller roadside temples along the way. Canang Sari, hand-made baskets filled with flowers and other oddities, are also offered at the entrances to homes and shops, at the edge of the tide, on the rails of a boat, at the base of large trees, at significant intersections along roads, at compass points in a house, at the highest point on ledges of temples as well as the eastern and western ledges. I feel compelled to photograph them all. Talk to the Balinese and they will be happy to explain the significance of each offering as well as the highlights of their temple calendar. Ritual is all-encompassing and omnipresent.

Balinese woman making rirual cremeony at the local Puri ir temple.
Balinese women making ritual offerings at the local Pura or temple.

Last week, the Balinese spent two days preparing for Galungan,¹ the celebration of good over evil, which is the highlight of the Hindu Calendar. This involved one day of spiritual cleansing at the local temple- again, awash with more flowers, followed by a day of personal cleansing. The streets and temples around Sanur are spotless in preparation for Galungan which takes place on September 7 and 8 this year. Many local women are busy plaiting and constructing elaborate decorations made from bleached coconut palm leaves for the coming days. Sadly I will miss it all- it’s time to say Selamat Tinggal to my other island home. Farewell once again to the beautiful Balinese people and their inviting spirituality: farewell to the gnarled old frangipani trees and their daily blessings.

Ritual offerings
Ritual offerings

Each photo above can be viewed separately. Click and open.

¹ Galungan is a Balinese holiday celebrating the victory of dharma over adharma. It marks the time when the  ancestral spirits visit the Earth. The last day of the celebration is Kuningan, when they return. The date is calculated according to the 210 day Balinese calendar.

Seminyak is not Bali

Many of you will know that I am enamoured with Balinese culture and its people. This love affair grows stronger with each visit, despite the fact that, like many others, I find some aspects of foreign tourism in Bali very disturbing. The best way to avoid seeing the ugly side of tourism is to by- pass particular districts, as well as becoming more receptive to the local culture, religion, ritual, history and the country’s social economic issues.

Here’s my current list of gripes:

  • the prevalence of plastic in a country that lacks regular rubbish collection and where, traditionally, rubbish is burnt. And, the holier- than -thou tourist attack on Bali’s plastic problem while continuing to shop, collecting plastic bags along the way, and drinking water from plastic bottles.
  • large foreign-owned resorts built along the shores of major tourist areas effectively blocking local access to their own beach. These resorts are favoured by tourists who have little interaction with the Balinese people or culture, beyond the obvious daily contact where Balinese serve their needs as waiters, cleaners, door openers, masseurs and drivers. Fake palaces dedicated to water wastage and energy consumption, built by cheap Javanese labour, charging a daily rate that would feed a Balinese family for years.
  • overrated districts devoted to consumerism, in particular the area around Kuta/Legian/Seminyak/ Kerobokan – now one continuous strip of consumer ugliness- with streets choked with traffic, offering tourists a Disneyland version of Bali, where foreign fashion designers and celebrity chefs (often Australian) open branches enabling foreigners to eat the same food that they might when visiting Melbourne or Sydney.
  • the barbarian dress code of some young Europeans, and others not so young, who turn up in restaurants or holy shrines wearing very little, displaying a cultural arrogance and ignorance beyond belief.
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I need to find out more about this magic statue’s big thumb. He greets many a visitor to the local Pura ( Hindu  temple).

Don’t get me wrong. Tourism, on the whole, has been good for the Balinese. Over the 37 years or so of visiting Bali, I’ve noticed huge improvements, with access to electricity, education and clean water providing the Balinese with a much improved lifestyle. In my chats with some of the locals recently, they have told me that they have more skills now and no longer want to work in industries such as fishing and building, these jobs being carried out by low paid migrants from Java and Madura. The tourist industry is now central to the Balinese economy ( 3.7 million visitors in 2014) as it is to other countries such as Italy ( 48.6 million in 2014 ) and Greece ( 22 million in 2014). Take tourism away and the Balinese economy would collapse.

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Pink hat for another big thumbed temple guardian. Pura Dalem Segara, Desa Adat, Jimbaran

After a twenty-one year absence from the commercial and congested strip of tourism that gives Bali a bad name, with Seminyak at its epicentre, I visited the area two days ago, in the interests of research and in the hope that things may have improved in that district. My notes from that journey are not worth repeating and no photos were taken. Enough said.

Temple gaurdian's big thumb
Temple guardian’s big thumb.

For Bali lovers, see also my posts from 2015.

https://almostitalian.wordpress.com/2015/08/09/beneath-my-feet/

https://almostitalian.wordpress.com/2015/04/18/early-bird-in-sanur/

https://almostitalian.wordpress.com/2015/01/23/tradition-and-change-in-ubud-bali-canang-sari/

https://almostitalian.wordpress.com/2015/04/16/the-morning-of-the-world-sanurbali/

https://almostitalian.wordpress.com/2015/04/19/greeting-the-dawn-sunday-bali/

https://almostitalian.wordpress.com/2015/04/23/bali-for-beginners-or-the-disenchanted-part-1/

https://almostitalian.wordpress.com/2015/05/13/bali-for-beginners-and-the-disenchanted-part-2/

https://almostitalian.wordpress.com/2015/11/20/characters-of-sanur-dr-pearl/

https://almostitalian.wordpress.com/tag/plastic-bottles/

 

A Detailed Look at Bali

This morning I woke up with Bali on my mind. My annual trip is long overdue: I find myself longing for her culture and people. The attention to detail, the generosity and warmth of the Balinese people and their daily artistic endeavours are the things I love most. Look closely and you will see so much more than the tourist veneer.cheap Jewellery, Sanur, Bali

A cheap trinket looks so inviting on a tanned Balinese arm.

Tempeh and gado gado, Pemuteran, Northern Bali
Tempeh and gado gado, Pemuteran, Northern Bali

Simple meals invite the eye and stimulate the appetite. The detailed presentation is reminiscent of  the Balinese ritual of Canang Sari.

Fresh flowers daily at Taman Sari, Pemuteran
Fresh flowers daily at Taman Sari, Pemuteran

Flowers arrive daily, as if by magic, brightening the verandah. A new day always begins with flowers.

This post is in response to the Daily Post’s theme Details. Not macro for me, just detailed.

 

 

Beneath My Feet

Morning offerings, Canang Sari, are made with such devotion. A silent and personal ceremony, the Balinese make daily offerings to Hindu Gods, but often include a few extras for their departed relatives.

Kanang sari, Bali
Canang Sari, Bali

As you walk along, they turn up beneath your feet in the most surprising places. I try not to disturb them as I walk along, but soon enough the traffic, tourists, birds or dogs will destroy these artistic creations, the debris swept up in the early morning. New canang sari appear each day, some more elaborate than others.

See also my other posts on Canang Sari:

https://almostitalian.wordpress.com/2015/01/23/tradition-and-change-in-ubud-bali-canang-sari/

https://almostitalian.wordpress.com/2015/04/18/early-bird-in-sanur/

Early Bird in Sanur

The Early bird in Sanur witnesses graceful sarong clad women perform the Balinese daily Hindu ritual of Canang Sari. A delicate hand places the remaining frangipani blossom on the woven offering and the incense stick is lit.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Daily Press photographic challenge this week is Early Bird.

<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_photo_challenge/early-bird/”>Early Bird</a>

Tradition and Change in Ubud, Bali. Canang Sari.

Canang Sari at the Honeymoon Guesthouse, ubud.

Morning Canang Sari at the Honeymoon Guest house, Ubud.

Ubud, nestled in the lush hills of Bali, a two hour trip by car from the sea or Denpasar airport, is often referred to as the cultural and artistic heart of Bali.  Ubud is pronounced ‘oobood’ as in the same way as the ‘oo’ sounds in ‘good’, but not the ‘oo’ in ‘mood. Despite its frenetic commercial centre, tourist restaurant precincts and overcrowded shopping strips, including a Starbucks outlet, traditional Bali is not far away. Just walk away from the tourist traps, jalan jalan into the outlying areas, or visit the temples (respectfully dressed), hike in the rice paddies and rain forest, or employ a driver to journey into the lush hills for a day trip.  It is remarkable how resilient Balinese Hindu traditions are: they have survived years of foreign influx. I would suggest that some Balinese rituals have become more pronounced in the 35 years of my journeys around this remarkable island. The practice of Canang Sari is an example of this.

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Ubud offers the photographer a visual feast on every corner away from the commercial hub. Leaving the food porn to others, I often spend each day photographing morning floral offerings, the Canang Sari of Ubud.  The canang is a small palm-leaf basket used as a tray, consisting of two syllables ca (beautiful) and nang (purpose). Sari means essence. Balinese women in tiny alleyways and shops spend their spare time weaving these little baskets, not only for their own family offerings, but also to make a little spare cash. If the tourist business is slow, a little local trade on the side is important for the local economy, as well as providing a small supplement to these women who make very little.

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Canang Sari are offered to give thanks to Sang Hyang Widhi Wasa in praise and thanks. They can be seen on Balinese temples (pura), on family or communal shrines, on the ground in front of shops, on pathways, and on the prows of boats (in Sanur).

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Some tourists barely see these little trays, and if they do, they disregard them or step on them, not knowing much about the work that each one entails. A little delving reveals that these daily ephemeral tributes consist of the following elements:

Peporosan or the core material is made from betel leaf, lime, gambier, prestige, tobacco and betel nuts. The material of peporosan symbolizes the Trimurti, the three major Gods in Hinduism. Shiva symbolized by lime, Vishnu symbolized by betel nut, and Brahma symbolized by gambier. Canang sari are covered by ceper (a tray made from palm leaf) as a symbol of Ardha Candra. Raka-raka is topped with sampian urasari, which are in turn overlaid by flowers placed in a specific direction. Each direction symbolizes a Hindu God:

  • White-coloured flowers that point to the east as a symbol of Iswara
  • Red-coloured flowers that point to the south as a symbol of Brahma
  • Yellow-coloured flowers that point to the west as a symbol of Mahadeva
  • Blue or green coloured flowers that point to the north as a symbol of Vishnu.

1-IMG_6086Then they become more personalised, and this is where the interest lies for tourists who wish to learn more about Balinese culture. Cigarettes, wrapped lollies, rice, food, incense sticks and all sorts of bits and bobs are added. As the morning opens up and the heat sets in, dogs and birds steal the rice, tourists unconsciously kick the offerings and by mid afternoon, they are swept up in a pile and burnt, as new baskets are prepared for the following day, and the cycle begins anew. Flower dealers trade at local markets early each morning, selling frangipani, hibiscus, marigold and other assorted leaves and flowers, as well as all the other ingredients required for making Canang Sari.

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On each visit to Bali, my fascination with Canang Sari is renewed. Beautiful art lies at your feet each morning. What could be more enchanting?  Courses are offered to visitors wishing to learn this traditional practice.

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