On ‘Banten’ – the Forgotten Meaning
Every region must have their own tradition which is inherited from their ancestor. Such as India with their ‘mangal sutra’ tradition and the dowry from the bride, Japan for their tea ceremony and also the growth day for them who have reached the age of 20, and many other traditions around the world. And so does Indonesia with its various areas must have diversity on its tradition. One of them is Bali.
Bali is so popular with its ‘banten’ (means in the Balinese worship which is usually made from young coconut leaves and contains fruits, flowers, leaves, betel vine, cakes, and sesari – a little money as an offering). There are many kinds of ‘banten’, hundreds might be. It is so amazing that the old people are able to remember those kinds of ‘banten’ for each different ceremony meanwhile most of the young Balinese generations do not understand on ‘banten’ and everything related on it. That’s why this sentence appears; “It’s quite difficult to be a Balinese, isn’t it?”
Actually the ‘banten’ itself has spiritual meaning. So, ‘banten’ is a symbol to remind the Balinese on the spiritual values. But with the passing of the time the spiritual values which are contained in ‘banten’ is forgotten. Only symbols are left.
When I was a child, I often asked. “Why we make this/that banten?”
The answer that I got was, “Because this is an offering to God.”
I replied, “Why the God needs so many ‘banten’, He is the owner of everything, isn’t He?”
At last, this was the only answer came by, “It was like that from the beginning.” And it’s the end. No further explanation for the meaning of those ‘banten’, and etc.
Thanks to God those kinds of answers have been being corrected by the promoters of religion and the community leaders that each ‘banten has its own meaning and it can be made as simple as the people can. But not all people in the society have understood on it.
The most enormous thing is the trend which is existed in the society that the more expensive and numerous the ‘banten’ the more perfect the ceremony would be. Incredible! The Balinese can spend millions to buy ‘banten’. For example the Mepandes ceremony (a ceremony for a child who has grown up which is symbolized by filing the six upper teeth, four front teeth and two canines). Spiritually those teeth symbolize six bad natures in human being, they are; krodha = anger, kama = passion/desire, lobha = greediness, matsarya = jealousy, moha = arrogance, mada = craziness on something. So, this ceremony is done as a hope for the child to be a better person in the future. But frequently the millions fund for doing this ceremony make those families who come from the lower class cannot afford their children’s education. It is so contrast with the aim of the ceremony itself. How could someone be a better person without a good education?
Ceremonies and ‘banten’ become a place for prestige and influence and the meaning is forgotten. This custom creates an anxiety among the lower class society. Afraid of what if they cannot provide a luxurious ritual ceremony for the Gods, will their worship be accepted?
This anxiety also has been improved by the religion leaders so that people re-realize the sense inside ‘banten’ and hold a simple ceremony.
Wouldn’t it be better to act than just doing a ritual ceremony? Education is much more important and useful than just a symbol. The fund which is expended to grow plants is more effective than just a ritual to respect those plants. Yes, a good tradition must be maintained to enrich the culture but don’t forget with the value inside it. Don’t make it worthless.