31 August 2016

Canang Sari, the daily offer

Anyone who has been to Bali has seen the little Hindu offerings scattered across the island’s streets. But what many visitors to the Island of the Gods are unaware of is how much these little baskets have been commoditized since Bali’s tourism industry exploded. It’s a lengthy process that goes into the offerings, called Canang Sari. Making the basket, creating the gift, and performing the ritual add up to the full dedication given to the gods. A time sacrifice and financial commitment is part of this selfless act. The base, the canang (pronounced “chan-ang”), is a square woven tray made from coconut leaf, betel nut and lime which represent three Hindu deities: Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. Together they form Tri Murti which is the combination of their powers, respectively, as creator, preserver, and fuser. From east to west and north to south, four different colors of petals fill the basket each symbolizing a relation to a god. At the top of the compass, Vishnu is represented by blue or green, white flowers are given for Iswara and the east, the south, red is for Brahma, and yellow is the color for the western direction and the god Mahadeva. Traditionally, women would personally hand-make canang sari on a daily basis.
That was before the rapid inpour of globalization in Bali. About ten years ago, nobody bought canang sari. There was no place to buy them. But now there are many women selling [premade] ones. Walking down the streets of Bali nowadays it’s as easy to find canang sari vendors as spotting an Indomaret. Over the past few years, the island has gone through major transformations.
But even if Bali has globalized, the offerings are still routinely interwoven into day-to-day life. Canang sari will continue to cover the streets but the story behind its preparation may take on a whole new meaning.

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