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On Bali, they're everywhere. From a few grains of banana leaf rice to a slice, to the daily canang placed around a home or family shrine - to the towers of fruit, cake, poultry and livestock carried in procession to the temple - Balinese Hindu offerings are ubiquitous.

Walk down any street on Bali, and the first thing you'll see by your feet is the daily canang - 'chanang', or small, square, woven baskets made from leaves and filled with flowers - accompanied by an assortment of gifts for the Gods and topped with a single molding stick of incense. In their simplicity, these mods are beautifully crafted banten - offerings - encapsulate Bali's unique fusion of Hinduism.

Selfless Offerings to Bali's Gods

Philosophically speaking, the making and giving of banten is a selfless act; a kind of self-sacrifice. It is part-meditation, part-escape from the humdrum buzz of everyday life; it's a gift of gratitude to the Maker, and a application for lower spirits that they don't disturb the living.

Women, not men, make the offerings. Often there are several generations of family will sit together chat, mechanically stitching, skewering and cutting speed break - the youngest barely old enough to wield a knife. The Balinese offerings of the amount of time, effort and money to make themselves into their creations, their creators in turn offer their life-energy, and time, to God.

How to make a Balinese Hindu offering.
The smoke of the incense carries the sari - the essence of an offering - to heaven
The smoke of the incense carries the sari - the essence of an offering - to heaven.
Balinese canang offerings left by Hindu devotees at Tirta Empul Temple, Tampaksiring, Bali, Indonesia
Balinese canang offerings left by Hindu devotees at Tirta Empul Temple, Tampaksiring, Bali, Indonesia.

The Meanings Inside a Balinese Offering

Inside a canang sari - the building-blocks of Balinese offerings - everything has a meaning. You'll find white lime, red betel-nut and the green betel nut or gambier plant - each representing a major Hindu God of the Trine - Shiva, Brahma and Vishnu. The symbol of sincerity and love: white petals in the east of the little box for the God Iswara; red for the fiery Brahma in the south; yellow flowers - usually Japan, or 'frangipani' - for the God Mahadeva in the west; and blue or green for cool Vishnu in the north. On top of that you also often see a small-denomination bank that says that completes the sari - the selfless essence - of the offering.

Where to Place Canang in a Family Compound

The average Balinese compound requires about 15 canang - the small, square, daily offerings - to be placed in strategic areas around the home and family temple. The Padma, or the temple in the north-eastern corner, needs two. The statue next to it - the monument, responsible for home security - also receives two. A fifth to left ground to them to placate the lower spirits.

The next is balanced on top of a compound's well or water-bore - for watery Vishnu. Brahma, the God of Fire in the kitchen, is offered one. Other single offerings are placed in the main bedroom, on the family gazebo (or bale dumbfounded), and one on the ground in the middle of the compound for Motherland, Mother Earth. The last four go outside. The Mongrel clapper - the little shrines either side of a compound gate - receive one each, and the final two are placed between them on the ground for the lower spirits.

Only by honoring both the higher and lower spirits of a household can be negatively balanced with positivity - thus ensuring family harmony.

Daily offerings and a morsel of food are left on the ground for the lower spirits who reside there
Daily offerings and a morsel of food are left on the ground for the lower spirits who reside there.
Once the incense goes out, it offers a snack for any lucky passer-by
Once the incense goes out, it offers a snack for any lucky passer-by ...

The Ritual of Prayer

All that is left is to send the sari of the canang up to heaven. Dressed in a sarong and waist, usually performing this daily ritual unless she is resentful - spiritually unfit period - in which case a male relative will take over. A Japan flower is dipped into a bowl of tirta (water taken from a holy spring) and delicately sprinkled over the canang sari and incense to complete the fusion of earth, fire, wind and water. After three years of facing downward accompanied by prayer, the smoke carries the essence of the offerings up to God.

On Kajeng Kliwon, motorbikes and cars will be adorned with colorful, geometrical offerings to protect them from negative forces for the next 15 days.

Variety is the Spice of Religion

But canang sari are smaller pieces of a larger spiritual puzzle. During a temple festival, or legal fees, you'll see women walking in winding mapeed procession carrying towers of banten tegeh - high offerings of fruit, rice-cakes, canang and the occasional cooked chicken. During a major legal fees, women will spend up to two weeks making elaborate jaja offerings - surreal effigies of flowers and mythical creatures molded from dyed rice dough.

On Kajeng Kliwon, motorbikes and cars will be adorned with colorful, geometrical offerings to protect them from negative forces for the next 15 days. On the eve of Nyepi - the Hindu Day of Silence - giant ogoh-ogoh, or papier-mâché monsters, will be paraded through Bali's roads before being burned in a symbolic destruction of evil. And during a Royal cremation ceremony, or ngaben, a tiered funeral tower as tall as a three-story house and weighing up to 11 tons - perhaps the largest Balinese offering of all the street before being consumed by fire.

Animals are offered to the Gods. The squealing of pigs being killed ceremonially air fills the night before the festivals of Galungan and Brass. Chickens - fighting cocks - are sacrificed in the ring as blood must be filled to complete any major Balinese ceremony. It is a matter of placating the darker, unseen spirits that must exist for their opposite, positive forces to drive.

It's a Yin-Yang thing.

Balinese offerings permeate this tiny island. They are not made for you, or for you, for the people who create them. They are made, given and left for the unseen. That is their purpose. A selfless act in a self-filled world.

In Photographs: Balinese Hindu Offerings

A Balinese woman blesses her offerings with tirta - holy spring water - and burning incense
A Balinese Hindu woman blesses her offerings with tirta - holy spring water - and burning incense.
Women carry banten tegeh - high offerings - of fruit, rice cakes and canang to temple during the six-month ceremony in the ceremony of Suwug Village, Buleleng, North Bali
Women carry banten tegeh - high offerings - of fruit, rice-cakes and canang to temple during a six-monthly legal fees ceremony in Suwug Village, Buleleng, North Bali.
Women and children of an Ubud community perform a mapeed - a process - to temple, carrying offerings on their heads
Women and children of an Ubud community perform a mapeed - a procession - to temple, carrying offerings on their heads.
Villagers and priests prepare complex arrays of offerings for local people, Hindu temple festivals, in Trunyan, Kintamani, Bali
Villagers and priests prepare a complex array of offerings legal fees, or Hindu temple festival, in Trunyan, Kintamani, Bali.
A modern collection of offerings has to be blessed during a Balinese Hindu wedding ceremony in rural Buleleng, Bali, Indonesia
A modern collection of offerings has to be blessed during a Balinese Hindu wedding ceremony in rural Buleleng, Bali, Indonesia.
Elaborately-made banten with fruit, cake and chickens during a modest wedding ceremony in rural Buleleng, North Bali, Indonesia
Elaborately-made banten with fruit, cake and chickens during a modest wedding ceremony in rural Buleleng, North Bali, Indonesia.
Canang sari, complete with mounts and mounts outside of a Hindu temple on Menjangan Island, North Bali, Indonesia
Canang sari complete with banknotes and mounts up outside a Hindu temple on Menjangan Island, North Bali, Indonesia.
Banten tegeh - high offerings - are the central courtyard of a village temple ceremony in Suwug Village, North Bali, Indonesia
Banten straight - high offerings - are a village temple during the year legal fees temple ceremony in Suwug Village, North Bali, Indonesia.
Offerings are left by Balinese Hindu devotees before a self-purification ceremony in the sacred spring water of Tirta Empul Temple, Tampaksiring, Bali, Indonesia
Offerings are left by Balinese Hindu devotees before a self-purification ceremony in the sacred spring water of Tirta Empul Temple, Tampaksiring, Bali, Indonesia.
Village priests arrange offerings of chickens for tourists, Hindu temple festivals, in Trunyan, Kintamani, Bali, Indonesia
Village priests arrange offerings of chickens for an legal fees, or Hindu temple festival, in Trunyan, Kintamani, Bali, Indonesia.
A pig is skinned in a wedding feast in Trunyan Village, Kintamani, North Bali
A pig is skinned in a wedding feast in Trunyan Village, Kintamani, North Bali.
Professionally-made Hindu offerings in Ubud Market, Bali.
Professionally-made Hindu offerings in Ubud Market, Bali. Many modern Balinese housewives don't have time to work, family and religious commitments, and often buy ready-to-use