February 13, 2011

Balinese Offerings: Canang and Banten

Yesterday morning, I woke up early and headed to Komang's uncle house to prepare the Canang and Banten, the traditional Balinese offerings. Everyone was already busy at work cutting the tips of the bananas and washing them, preparing all the flowers and organizing the jaja and fruits.

There are many different offerings and all have a symbolic meaning and a specific purpose. Every one knows exactly how to make them but I have to say that I progress slowly regarding the detailed explanation of each one of them. I am always torn, in these occasions, between learning and being respectful. It is not that people don't know or are not patient to explain, it is just that they have always done this; it is a tradition passed down and acquired since childhood, gestures learned and done with care, love and respect but not intellectualized in the Western sense.

 I just marvel at their beauty and have learned the proper way to make them without knowing exactly why they are each done a certain way.

What I do know is that they are all a gift from the heart to the gods, made as beautiful as possible.
They connect humans to the unseen world and bring balance and harmony between the positive and negative forces, they are a symbol of love and devotion. 

I am always touched by their evanescent beauty. Like Tibetan Mandalas, they are not meant to last, just to remind us to give our best every day because of love and belief. 

And doing this repetitively gently teach patience and surrender to something bigger. I learned it does not work to hurry or to do it to get done with it, better not doing it then. It certainly changed my perspective on life... And if I still don't exactly know what I am doing, I know it's beautiful!

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