I spent Galungan celebration at Payangan village, North of Ubud where I contemplate for hours and days these amazing visual delicacies. Balinese ceremonial offerings are amazingly beautiful both in their simplicity of material and complexity in their diverse creative forms. Each color, arrangement, flower, rice, dry cakes… have their own meaning. Through the beautiful colors and fragrances, these offering symbolize the relationship of our being, nature and the universe.
The offerings below are the most basic called Canang Sari. They are purely organic, provided by mother earth, crafted by our hands with devotion; a constant reminder of the relationship between micro cosmos & macro cosmos. Basically the colors within Canang Sari represent Panca Dewata and the cardinal directions :
- White / pink flowers placed towards the East – Iswara
- Red flowers placed towards the South – Brahma
- Yellow flowers placed towards the West – Mahadewa
- Black/ blue/green flower placed towards the North – Wisnu
- Pandan or kembang rampai placed in the middle – Siwa
Panca Dewata is Sang Hyang Widhi ( the one and only ) manifested in 5 sacred light that embodies and embrace all creation. The 5 lights manifest to what we call Dewa ( deity ) : Iswara, Brahma, Mahadewa, Wisnu and Siwa.
I’m told that originally Canang Sari flowers are supposed to be handpicked from ones gardens. The simple message and wisdom from Sang Hyang Widhi being that a colorful garden would make our home look beautiful and that will make us happy. We handpick these flowers and place them as offerings as a reminder to be grateful to Ibu Pertiwi (Mother Earth).
Think about it … if you have a flower garden and you cut a few to place them in a vase inside the house…wouldn’t that make your home lovely ? I am sure you will look at your flower arrangement contemplating how beautiful it is and deep inside you would feel gratitude towards nature. This is the same basic idea of Canang Sari.
The colors of life are embraced by the sun because, in truth, nothing else obviously and literally gives life on earth. This is the main reason why most ancient cultures and those in Nusantara ( pre-Indonesia ) worship the sun…not as God but as the provider of life, a manifestation of the Creator.
Below is a beautiful arrangement of Banten (offerings) made of flowers, rice, sirih ( Betel leaf ) , batik, and coconut elements … this is for our ancestors because we want them to be with us on Galungan day.
My friend Kadek, spent several weeks preparing all of these offerings for Galungan. Eventually she has 2 shelves full of offering baskets and they all go to the Sanggah (family temple in a Balinese house).
Below is the offering basket she brings to purify and bless the house area.
First she would go around the house to place offerings on specific spots to purify the place.
Then once purified, she would go around again to actually pray or give blessing on these specific spots.
She even did a prayer for my car … Perhaps for safety =)
These are the offerings in front of the house, purified and blessed. This is a really beautiful mess =)
The chickens eat the offerings … Bless them!!! hahhaha =D
Later that day, it’s time to undo all the offerings. Rather than leaving offerings to rot, we gather them and divide into piles: one goes for chicken food, one we can reuse and one we can share to eat.
I sat there in the bale ( Balinese gazebo ) undoing these Banten ( offerings ) while contemplating on several things in mind. Then it came to me, Kadek made all the amazing offering in the span of 2 weeks and we undo the whole thing in just an hour. I think about the monks in Tibet who create beautiful Mandala from colored sand for months or years and after they give blessing to the sacred symbol they destroy it.
The whole process symbolizes something simple, deep and profound .
to create something amazingly beautiful takes a long time of effort and devotion…
but to destroy it is easy and quick