balinese ceremonies-Balinese woman making daily offerings at family shrine

Balinese woman making daily offerings at family shrine


When you visit Bali, you’ll quickly notice that traditional Balinese ceremonies are an important, integral part of daily life for the Balinese. And that’s partly what makes Bali so unique and charming: regularly seeing the locals dressed in traditional ceremonial clothing, carrying baskets of fruit/flower offerings, going off to temples or beaches or friends’ homes to attend the seemingly never-ending series of ceremonies.

balinese ceremonies

Besides abundant weddings, funerals and cremations there’s ceremonies marking other important human events such as teeth filing and a series of ceremonies for newborn babies as well as various ceremonies for the Gods, ancestors, priests and even devils!

This slew of ceremonies affects Balinese life in many unexpected ways. For example, because of the many ceremonies, Balinese employees are always skipping out on work, taking hours- or days- off, which makes businesses run not nearly as smoothly as in the western world. In addition, the Balinese use large amounts of their income for the often quite expensive decorations, offerings, special clothing and feasts required by such ceremonies.

balinese ceremonies
In addition to all the ‘special event’ ceremonies mentioned above, the Balinese engage in daily offerings to the Gods. Offerings are generally made twice daily, in the morning and late afternoon, by every household and business.
While these rituals can be done by both men and women, it’s generally the women, supposedly with more free time, who do most of the offerings. These routines usually take up quite a lot of time since they entail both MAKING the offerings and then placing the offerings around at several locations in the home and/or business.
balinese ceremonies-Balinese daily offerings

Balinese daily offerings

Everywhere you go in Bali you can find women sitting around chatting while mechanically putting together quite artistic small baskets/ trays made from palm leaves then filling them with either rice, flowers or fruits.

And everywhere you go you will find these small offerings laying around- on sidewalks, roads, in front of shops, restaurants and houses. It’s sometimes actually rather difficult just to walk without accidentally stepping on them! But these little baskets of flowers and incense sticks are also what make Bali so wonderfully unique and fragrant.

Bali's handmade daily offerings in process of construction

Bali's handmade daily offerings in process of construction

The offering routine all starts in the early morning when the women of the household sit around making the small woven baskets out of flat banana leaves. Some baskets are simple squares while others are more elaborate decorative artistic creations. After they make the baskets they fill them with either flowers or rice/ salt.
Once the offerings are completed one of the women, dressed in a sarong and sash, carries them around to all the household/ business shrines and other spots, including near the stove, in front of the house/shop, in front of bedrooms, and so on. With each offering, they also place a stick of incense. There are special hand gestures and prayers involved in placing the offerings.
Balinese woman- daily offerings

Balinese woman placing daily offerings around property

The number of offerings placed around the premises depends on the size of the household/ business and could be anywhere from 3 up to 100 offering spots. For example, the restaurant I frequented in Lipah places offerings in about 9 spots, including 4 shrines.

Yulia homestay in Sanur, where I always stay, has about 20 shrines on their premises. Including all the other offering spots around the homestay, they place offerings in about 50 spots, twice/day! Each round takes about an hour. The wife of the household always makes the flower offerings, but staff sometimes make the ric/salt offerings.

Balinese woman - offerings-garden shrine

Balinese woman placing offerings at garden shrine

Besides these twice-daily routine offerings, the Balinese make random offerings to ancestors and devils. Offerings to devils are made with 4 colors of rice: white, red, yellow and black, placed on coconut leaf baskets. These offerings are then always put on the ground, never up inside shrines or temples. Sometimes alcohol is also offered to devils.

Offerings to ancestors are made whenever someone thinks of his/her dead relative or dreams about them or even on a daily basis. These offerings are always made on clean plates. On the plates are placed water plus things that ancestor liked such as coffee or tea, cake, favorite foods, and cigarettes. These offerings are placed in high places, never on chairs or the ground. In addition to offerings for ancestors and devils, Balinese also place offerings inside cars before each trip.

balinese ceremonies-daily offerings

basket of freshly prepared daily offerings

As you can imagine, the Balinese keep themselves quite busy with all the daily offerings, special occassions and annual ceremonies going on! And, as I mentioned above, travelers to Bali can’t help but notice the little offering baskets sitting around everywhere or witness Balinese wearing traditional clothing, placing offerings at shrines and/or heading off to one ceremony or another. It’s all part of unique Bali living.


Balinese woman-offerings

Balinese woman with tray of offerings

Come check it out! cheers, Lash

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Balinese Gamelan: Traditional Percussion Orchestras

Salt Making in Amed Bali 

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