One of the first things you’ll notice in Bali is the little offerings to the spirits, made by hand with incredible artistry from natural, perishable materials.
A piece of palm or banana leaf is delicately trimmed, braided and pinned together to make a miniature tray, and holds offerings like a pinch of cooked rice, a slice of banana, a biscuit, a betel-nut, a flower.
Larger and more elaborate offerings are produced for ceremonies, often in the form of cone-shaped towers made of cakes, fruit and flowers. It’s spectacular to watch processions of women in traditional dress making their way to the temple gates carrying these decorative offerings on their heads.
Each ingredient is symbolic, and colours carry different meanings. At least once a day a day, these offerings are placed in temples, houses and other buildings, even on motorbike seats and on restaurant shrines (where mice have been known to get at them!)
Accompanied by a prayer, a stick of burning incense and delicately sprinkled with holy water, the offerings act as gifts of gratitude to the gods and appeasement to negative spirits.
Making the Offerings
Balinese women are in charge of making the offerings, and often several generations work together, ensuring the continuation of these skills – you’ll sometimes see them making offerings together by the side of the road.
Women these days are getting busier in Bali, holding down full-time jobs that they often have to commute to, and offerings can now be bought in the market instead of being home-made, but nonetheless the significance of offerings has not diminished and continues to be one of Bali’s most charming art-forms.