Offering/Canang = The Beauty of Destiny; a meditation of culture

by Sangtu, our Balinese cultural advisor.

Offerings, every day, everywhere in Bali: This spiritual practice is how each individual Balinese person connects to God, Spirit, Ancestors and Nature. We call it Balinese-Hindu.

These are the components of the Canang:

  1. The holder, on the bottom, is a square or triangle or circle made of coconut leaf.
  2. On top of that is called ‘Porosan’, which is considered the igniter or like a spark plug in a car.
    • It’s a combination of piper betle leaf, limestone powder and beetle nut.
    • It symbolizes ‘Tri-Premana’ in the body; Bayu (deeds), Word (word) and Eyelash (mind).
    • It symbolizes ‘Trimurti’ in the larger macro-cosmos, where each item symbolizes something special: Shiva (limestone powder), Vishnu (piper betle leaf) and Brahma (betel nut).
    • Porosan’s  meaning is that every community has a heart full of love and compassion and deep gratitude to a deity of ‘The Big Picture’ (Ida Sang Hyang Widhi). The offerings also include incense-fire for Brahma, Holy water for Wisnu, and flowers for Shiva.
  3. On top of the porosan is pile of flowers.
  4. On the very top layer of the canang is the pandan leaf, which smells good and is calming.

Balinese put offerings  in all different types of places; on the car, kitchen, office, rooms, in a little box called a ‘canang’ located on the side of the house, and even on the street.

Why do they put them almost every where? Because our life is everywhere and god is everywhere.

Where are offerings placed?

  • on the ground, to be grateful to Ibu Pertiwi (Mother Earth)
  • on our tools because we are grateful these tools can help us (car, knife, computer)
  • on each building, both shrine and house; always giving offerings for buildings because it’s important to maintain a harmonious energy within them.  . . like electric cables being properly connected. After the original ceremony for a building, the offering is like the maintenance program for connecting with the soul of the universe.

Canang (pronounced chanang) is the daily offering and it comes from the words, Can=Beauty  and Nang=destiny and intention.  So Canang means the beauty of destiny.

Many westerners visiting Bali often ask, “Why so many many offerings on this Island of paradise?”  We Balinese sometimes have the same question. When I was little boy I asked my Mom the same question, “Why do you spend all your time all day and all night making these offerings, especially on Galungan day?”  She would not answer my question. “Mom, why do you put offerings every where? Like with the tools, kitchen, all the rooms, the street, every building?”  I got a frustrated feeling when she could not give me a specific answer about the logic of doing offerings.

She did not answer, but now I understand and see the abundance of happiness and joy and spirit and food we have here in Bali. It is the same thing as to celebrate Happy Birthday. We have gratitude and don’t need a logical explanation about being grateful, do we?