Monday, May 27, 2013

Bali's Gifts to the Gods

Almost a month ago, Nate and I arrived in Bali, Indonesia from New Zealand. We were still bundled up in our winter gear which we quickly stuffed deep into the bottom of our packs -- which is where we found our long-forgotten summer clothes. We had landed just 8 degrees south of the equator and have been sweating ever since. So after a beautiful but rather hot week in Ubud- we decided to head for coastal waters to cool down. We chose to leave Bali and go to the small island of Gili Meno just off of Lombok Island. Click here to see blog.

The differences between Bali and Lombok were immediately apparent. It was then- that I realized that Bali really is the Island of the Gods.  Bali is majority Hindu where as the other islands are mostly Muslim.  The flower and incense offerings that were ever present in Bali are rarely seen in Lombok. Instead, we heard the loud call to prayer several times a day. Beautiful, but just not the same.

After returning to Bali and finding myself excited to once again see the offerings and smell the familiar scent of the incense, I decided to learn more about their meaning.

The Mahabharata, a famous Hindu epic, states in the passage- the Bhagavad-Gita that:

"Whoever offers to me with devotion a leaf, a flower, a fruit, or water, that offering of love, of the pure heart I accept." (Ix:26)

But what is the meaning of the incense? I found in a book that I've been reading called Bali: Sekala & Niskala by Fred Eiseman, Jr. that the incense is used to carry the offering upward. I have also seen women (I've only witnessed one man place an offering) take a flower from the offering, dip it in water and then make a circular movement with their hands which spreads the holy water (from a separate container than the offering) and waft the incense from the offering.

The offerings seem to be everywhere- on the steps, the sidewalk, in special temples on the property, on the dash in cars and on motor-scooters. They are beautiful - although you really have to watch your step for fear of stepping on one! They are often placed on the sidewalk, on steps, ok- just about everywhere. The importance of these offerings is not taken lightly. Our taxi driver stopped at a temple when we were traveling from Amed to Kuta. Both he and the car were blessed with flowers and holy water for good luck.

Many contain rice as well which seems to be the only consistent food source for a great number of hungry cats and dogs. Some instead of rice, contain a wrapped candy, a cracker, cigarette or 1000 coin (equivalent of a US penny).

Some of the offerings build up under the newly placed offering. Not much care seems to go into cleaning up the previous gifts. Thankfully they are made of biodegradable grasses and flowers (other than the candies)- and eventually breakdown. One day in a heavy afternoon rain- we watched dozens float by down the street...

I have also seen many bright, beautiful and sacred orange carnations (or poms) placed on statues. Here's a few of my favorites.

No comments:

Post a Comment