Whether you realize it or not, most foreigners know Bali as a country rather than a part of Indonesia which is the official country that contains Bali itself. Bali probably is the most popular Indonesian destination in the world. So it is always interesting when we talk about Bali.
Bali is all about art. When you first arrive in Bali, you will realize how magnificent the buildings are. Not to mention, the rich cultural traditions of Balinese, who are mostly Hindu. The beaches, hills and mountains, the scenery, the people, food culture are several things that will surely make you fall in love with Bali instantly. What attracts us the most are perhaps the cultural traditions. Let’s dig in.
Hindu and Balinese: Balinese Hinduism
Despite of being the largest Muslim population in the world, Indonesia is large country with many religious and cultural differences. Each city and region has its own beliefs and traditions. Bali is among them all, as the home of the Hindus in Indonesia.
It’s no surprise to find many kinds of offerings every step you take on your path, that’s part of their belief and tradition. Balinese Hinduism has its own uniqueness. Some of the offerings contain foods, flowers such as frangipani, and there’s always incense in between. But, food is always the most important part of the offerings. In other words; no food without ritual, and there is no ritual without food offerings.
The Offerings, Spirits, and Symbols: Everyday in Life
The offering ritual is part of Balinese daily activity in life. Balinese believe that everything in this world belongs to God, for God, men, and the universe. Giving the offering to God(s) and the late spirits is a-must activity, especially food offerings, before being enjoyed by humans. Without giving the offering, people are considered and believed to be stealing what belongs to God.
The food given as the offering is not merely food; every kind of food has its own symbol, or meaning. Duck, for example, symbolizes prudence. Turtle symbolizes the earth pedestal because turtle has the ability to live both on land and water. Chicken symbolizes dynamism, dog symbolizes loyalty, pig symbolizes laziness and more.
In Balinese Hinduism beliefs, the animal sacrifice for offerings is not a form of brutality; instead, it’s a form of love to the animals. The animal spirits will be purified and hopefully will be reincarnated into humans in the next life.
In Balinese Hinduism beliefs, there are spirits that belong to late people which live in the world of ghaib. The forms of spirits are then replicated in art as part of Balinese tradition. One form of art represented is the Barong, a form of Balinese dancing. There are several kinds of Barong which are often brought into dancing ceremonies such as Barong Asu, Barong Macan, Barong Ket, Barong Kambing, Barong Brutuk etc.
A very popular kind of Barong is Barong Asu, which represents the spirit of dog. Dog as an animal represents loyalty and part of a very important belief in Balinese Hinduism. Both humans and dogs have a very important bond in life, worldly and spiritual. Dogs, especially those with a reddish skin with black dots around mouths and tips of their tails, are believed to be able to cleanse the universe. They are usually used in mecaru purification ceremonies.
Also, spirits have important part in the beliefs. The offerings ritual is one way how the Balinese make tributes to the Gods and spirits. Balinese strongly believe in supernatural and spiritual strength, which most of their beliefs are based on this. For them, good spirits live in the mountains and forests, while the sea is a place for demons. The offerings ritual is a form of daily activity to avoid calamity from the nature and spirits and gods, and as a gratitude to God (Hyang Widhi). The offerings ritual is also known as an act to bring prosperity and health for the whole family. That’s why the offerings ritual is a very important activity for Balinese.
Every day, Balinese present offerings (canang sari) which are put on holy places such as temples, or houses, sidewalks, in front of stores, etc – a repeated act of faith. Those offerings are form of gratitudes to Gods and the late spirits. The offerings are simply everywhere.
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