Banana (“biu” in Balinese) in Balinese life is a non-substitutable part, that have merged into the Balinese daily life and become a necessity whether for ceremonial purpose or secular one. Banana in Bali is usually grown on the backyard of the house or crowded the backyard, as a matter of fact.
English maybe satisfied with a general word “banana” for all species banana but Balinese prefer to do something in complicated way, and with Banana, Balinese language coins a word for each species of Banana. There is red one, called biu udang, meaning ”shrimp banana.” There are delicious tiny ones, no longer than the length of your finger, called milk bananas, biu susu. Biu kate plants are dwarfs but the fruit is normal size. Biu gadang is still quite green when ripe and ready to eat. Biu mas is of a deep golden color. Biu kayu is long and skinny. Biu dak sangket resembles a hook. Biu raja, king banana is as big as banana that are sell in supermarket or maybe it is.
Each part of a banana plant has a specific name, for example, young banana leaf is called plosor. Banana leaf is called don biu. Dried old banana leaf is called kraras. Banana fruit is of course, called biu. Banana flower is called pusuh; and Banana trunk or pseudostem (since it is no actually a stem) is called gedebong.
Bananas can be dried and pounded into flour. This may be the sweet or starchy, depending upon the original banana, and may be substituted for all the uses of rice flour. A favorite way to eat bananas all over Asia is fried – godoh biu, they are called in Bali. Pieces of the peeled banana are dipped into a batter made of rice flour and water, and are fried in coconut oil until golden brown. Starchy bananas are usually steamed, boiled, roasted, or baked until the starch is more palatable.
Boiled banana stem with spices, called ares, is served as a vegetable. Standard pig food in Bali is sliced up banana pseudostem mixed with water and rice barn. The starchy stem fattens the animal quickly.
The banana leaf is the original disposable, biodegradable, plate, and wrapper of Bali and all of Asia. Sate is sold on banana leaf plates. Food stall sell their snacks wrapped in them. All sorts of rice cakes are steamed in them. The leaves are also used to mold rice cakes into conical cylindrical forms by pushing the soft paste of the rice though into the shaped leaf and peeling it off when the mold is full. Most food brought at the market, if it is wrapped at all, is wrapped in banana leaves, and each stall has a stack of squares, just as Western market would have a roll of plastic bags. Food is almost always eaten with the fingers, so that when the meal is over, there is nothing to wash. I once went to a very fancy banquet held in the spacious home of an Indonesian friend in a large city. They catered meal for 50 was served on banana leaves – on the floor.
The root of banana is used in Balinese traditional medicine. The root of banana is cut and squeezed to extract the banana root’s liquid. This liquid is a powerful medicine to cure the stomach problem whether it is by natural cause or poison
In Bali bananas are frequently used in offerings. Four days before Galungan, the most important Balinese religious holiday, a special day, Penyekeban, is set aside for the ripening of green bananas so that they will be ready for the many required offerings. Unripe bananas and green leaves are placed inside the tall clay jar, and the lid is sealed with mud. A coconut husk fire is kept burning on top of the lid. Three days later the jar is opened, and the ripe bananas are ready for the pleasure of the visiting spirits. After the bananas have been offered the makers of the offering eat them.
At the Balinese cremations, the body is usually placed inside on an animal effigy made of wood, and the fire is built under this effigy. The fire is prevented from the spreading by the rectangle of low walls built of banana pseudostems. These pseudostems (gedebong) contain a high percentage of water and are efficient at containing the intense heat. At the same ceremony, a flowering banana plant is cut and tied to a temporary shrine, the sanggah ragung, in which the offerings are placed. The banana flower is a symbol of Surya, the manifestation of God as the sun.
In Bali the gedebong also serve as the central support for the high offering that are such an important part of every temple festival. A one – or two – meters section of gedebong is thrust onto a long iron rod affixed to a special offering plate, shaped to be carried an a woman’s head. The offerings consist of colored rice cakes and cookies, fruits, whole ducks, parts of roast pigs and sweets. They are impaled upon the bamboo skewers, which in turn, are thrust into the upright pseudostem, covering it completely and transforming it into a tower of colors and smells. The offering, called a banten tegeh, is carried on a woman’s head to the temple.
One of the most popular forms of night entertainment in Bali and Java is the wayang kulit shadow puppet play. Leather puppets are displayed behind the translucent screen, illuminated by an oil lamp. The puppet master, or dalang, acts out with his puppets the enormously popular stories of the ancient Hindu epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabrata. There are dozens of characters, and only a few can be displayed at once. The ones not being used are held on each side of the screen by thrusting their supporting handles into a long section of banana pseudostem
Logs of banana pseudostem are sometimes used by rice farmers to smooth their irrigated rice fields before the rice is planted. A section of gedebong is impaled on the tines of the rake that is used to break up clods of dirt, and the log is dragged up and down the flooded sawah as one might use a push broom.
Most of the materials for this article are taken from ”Bali Sekala and Niskala” vol. II, by Fred B. Eiseman, Jr.