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Balinese Expressions: Offerings in a Changing World

By: Dr Stan Florek, Category: Science, Date: 30 Oct 2013

An example of a dynamic culture.

Offering at Ubud Market, Bali

Stan Florek © Stan Florek

Culture is never stagnant and indeed change is often necessary to adapt an old tradition to new circumstances – without it, customary practices may be lost. Various daily and many special offerings are the most familiar and visible expression of Balinese spiritual life.

An offering is the expression of thankfulness for ‘all blessed wealth and health’ given to people by God and ancestors. There are many different occasion for Balinese to make and serve the offering and also many types of offering that we Balinese, especially women, make.

The essential component is coconut leaf, called busung in the Balinese language. A few decades ago people typically would make their offering basket and related accessories from coconut leaves as they had plenty of them at home and sufficient time to prepare it. But busung dries and breaks quickly so it needs to be freshly made for every occasion. Yet Balinese are not only farmers, we have a wide variety of jobs in urban centres and life is getting more complicated. We must balance tradition with demanding obligations of daily life. So, with one foot firmly grounded in our customs, we step with the other into a rapidly changing world.

With busy life, other than rural work for many Balinese and less time to spare, we experimented with different ways and materials to make our offerings. And so the palm leaf, called ental, proved to be an excellent substitute. Unlike the coconut which rapidly dries and breaks, ental is stronger and does not wither as fast. In addition, palm leaves can be stitched with synthetic thread and joined with metal staples or clips. They can also be washed and reused for an entire week, rather than made daily.

This simple example of adjustment to necessities of modern living shows how culture can change in order to continue and be cherished.

Story by Ita - Putu Ayu Yunita Yastini