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Bali - Gods & Demons

                                 A Bali Story - Gods, Demons & Offerings

Out of the 18,108 islands of Indonesia, the world's largest Islamic country, Bali is the only island where Hinduism is the predominant religion. It's roots go way back  to the 8th through15th centuries when it was gradually accepted into practice. During this time it incorporated many of its older Balinese beliefs and rituals such as animism* and ancestor worship. Today's religion is officially called Agama Hindu Dharma. It also known by a few other names, especially Agama Tirta meaning 'religion of holy water' which is an important part of many of the religious rituals.

 The Balinese have also thought of the universe as a well ordered configuration.... where everything has its place. This includes gods, people, and demons each with their allotted place in the universe. There is a duality of nature, high and  low, right and left, day and night, clean and unclean and especially good and evil. The yin and yang of life. Humans are caught between these opposing forces.


To demonstrate this belief in balance and harmony Bali has adopted the back and   white checked fabric as a symbol of light and dark, good and evil. You will find this fabric draped on statues of deities and gods during religious festivals. It is also worn during religious ceremonies and during performances of epic ancient stories passed down through centuries.

It is believed the gods represent order and demons disorder. The deities (dewa and batara) reside on the tops of mountains along with deified ancestors and these deities give life to humans and the world, while the demons (bhuta and kala) who live under the sea seek humanity's destruction.


In the Balinese religion deities of fertility and the natural world and deified ancestors are worshiped alongside the Hindu trinity of Wisnu, Brahman, and Siwa. The divine is  Sanghyang Widi Wasa, all other gods are thought to be mere manifestations of him.

Offerings must be made thanking the gods for their 

bounty. If they are not shown respect and thanks they may punish humans with volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and epidemics which will destroy what humans have received from the gods. These perils are reminders of their duty to the gods.


Offerings (banten)to the gods are placed high on alters or sacred areas of the temples. They consist of various items, always beautiful and sprinkled three times per day with holy water. Often the daily offerings are made with a palm leaf folded into a container with flowers, rice, salt and sometime fruits.

Most offerings are made by women using plant materials. Offerings by men use meat and represent the animal kingdom. The ornate large offerings (Gebogan) are used for special religious ceremonies. 


What I find interesting, is that once these offerings have been blessed and received by the gods, they may be used by the people. During the blessing incense is used to carry the essence of the offerings up to the heavens. So the tall offerings (Gebogan) with luscious fruits, other foods and beautiful flowers is then taken home and used for a festival dinner. It is more common today to see women carrying their offerings in covered baskets on their  heads heading to the temple, then later this is used for the family's dinner.

I have a great story about this. One day near Tenganan everyone was just leaving the temple. Women were walking down the street with the large (Gebogan) tall stack of fruits and other foods and flowers on their heads. Balancing it on its stand with just one arm. More on how they are constructed later. Out comes two men holding one of these beautiful offerings, carrying it like you would carry a log. They were trying to put it into a pickup truck with much difficulty. A third man stepped in to help, and with much grunting and groaning they finally got it into the truck. . Meanwhile, at least eight or ten women, many very elderly, walked by carrying their large offering on their heads with no trouble. Our van full of women found this contrast most hilarious and the men with the truck did not appreciate that we were laughing through our windows at them.


 Walking down any street you will be confronted by offerings laying on  the ground. You may wonder why, as they get stepped on and end up really ugly looking. However, the demons must also be given offerings. These are not the beautiful offerings to the gods but are simple and placed on the ground where they are often stepped on and the bits of food are eaten by the local dogs. These are placed in front of shops or front doors of homes so demons will stop and evil spirits will not come into the homes or shops.



 Both offerings are important, you will find ladies in the market making them by the hundreds so busy people can just purchase a few for just pennies and protect themselves from demons or with the fancier ones give thanks to the gods. I found some non-Hindu Balinese also put out the offerings..... just to be safe.

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