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The Hallmark of Balinese Hinduism  

by on Friday, 2 March 2007No Comment | 3,675 views

Bali is the land of symbol, all product of Balinese activity is a symbolization of their faith and belief, and offering is the hallmark of all Balinese symbolization. Offering is a symbol of Balinese devotion the God and in some areas in Bali offering is even considered as symbolization of God.

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Offerings can be seen everywhere in Bali. Tiny coconut leaf baskets with leaf and pretty arrangement of flowers in it, canang, are presented everyday everywhere in Bali, in front of home, office, big tree, rice field, in the middle of cross road and in every place that is considered sacred by Balinese, even on the dashboard of truck, taxi, or on the computer. In the temples and shrines more elaborate daksina, consisting of a coconut leaves basket, rice, a carefully shaved coconut, a slice of banana, and small arrangement of flower, serve to symbolize the universe. During special ceremonies, huge gebogan – “high offering” – are constructed, with fruits, rice cakes, and even roasted ducks and pigs skewered to a meter high banana trunk.

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Gebogan offeringOfferings in Bali are always made of natural things – object of everyday use and life. They may be purchased, but they are never made of anything other than items that the Balinese use or consume themselves. They maybe articles of food. They may be objects “sewed” together from palm leaves. They maybe flowers. They maybe leave. They maybe food adjuncts, such as ingredients of the betel chew that is such a popular masticatory in Asia. All kind of Balinese offerings are made of flower, leaf, fruit and meat. But leaves, fruits and flower from the plant that grows in cemetery can not be used as offering material, some kind of berries that are usually eaten by snake are also forbidden material. And, an offering cannot be presented to God more than once. An offering is something tangible, presented to God (in some manifestation or another) at the time of prayer. The activity of making an offering is considered to be a sacred activity, when making an offering no excessive outburst of emotion is allowed. A harsh word and a quarrel during the process of making an offering is considered as a spiritual stain that can turn an elaborate offering into garbage.

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Offering to the higher aspects of God, those manifestations that the Balinese called betara-betari, must be beautiful – not necessarily elaborate (although often so), but nicely made, appealing objects that would delight the senses. Offerings made to the negative forces, the bhutas and kalas are often less carefully made. Usually made of raw meat, blood or food that has strong smell. These demons are known to be greedy and will voraciously consume almost anything. Thus many offerings to them are decayed by the time they are offered. Offerings to betara-betari are always presented on a platform, raised well to the ground, Those made to the earth demons are just placed on the ground.

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Philosophically, an offering is a kind of self-sacrifice. One spends time and money making an offering, putting something of oneself into it. And as such, the individual making the offering is making a small personal sacrifice to give thanks to God. Most Balinese would probably not express the idea this way. They make offerings because that is what they were taught to do. They know God enjoys them, and that is why they are made.

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