One of the most beautiful parts of visiting Bali is the lovely flower offerings you’ll see everywhere. From store fronts to home compounds, restaurants to temples, roads to statues, beaches to waterfalls- they’re almost all adorned with Canang Sari, the charming flower offerings of Balinese Hinduism.
Canang, meaning small palm-leaf basket tray, and Sari meaning essence, are a daily offerings put forth every morning by Balinese Hindus to honor and thank the Hindu god trinity known as the Trimurti- Shiva, Brahma and Vishnu.
The Canang are made of palm tree leaves and often filled with flowers, rice, food, money, incense, and so on, all to give gratitude and raise thankfulness for their daily life and the gift of nature.
The Ritual of Offering
Every morning, a tray of these beautiful Balinese flower offerings are spread across the island. The scent of frangipani flowers and sweet incense wafts through the air as this daily offering is made, and a peaceful balance permeates the vicinity.
These offerings hold so much symbolism- when I witnessed the ritual surrounding them I was entranced, needing to know more.
Once learning more, I found that traditionally, women are responsible for the assembly of the canang. It is a culture of collectivity- the women joined together in meditation as they assemble the baskets for these offerings.
The intention behind these offerings is to give thanks, resume balance and peace between the Gods, humanity and nature.
To lift this intention to the heavens, a jepun flower is dipped in holy spring water then used to sprinkle the canang. This piece of the ritual is included to fuse the elements symbolically- earth, wind, fire, and water together as one.
A prayer is shared and the message is carried to the gods through the smoke of a burning incense.
The Flowers in Canang Sari
Canang Sari are filled with beautiful, symbolic flowers. Each color flower has a special meaning and is carefully placed in a specific direction or portion of the canang.
- White colored flowers pointing east: a symbol of Iswara, also known as Shiva or Mahadeva. This signifies one of the primary forms of God.
- Yellow colored flowers pointing west: a symbol of Mahadeva, or Great God.
- Red colored flowers pointing south: a symbol of Brahma, the creator.
- Blue or Green flowers pointing north: a symbol of Vishnu, the preserver.
The Balance Between Gods, Humanity and Nature
Ultimately these are a symbol of balance between the higher powers, humanity and nature- made to lift up everlasting gratitude. I find this to be so comforting and beautiful- and certainly powerful enough to teach foreigners who are paying attention a wonderful lesson.
At least in the western world, life moves so fast. The only rituals we make time for are morning coffee and daily commutes. Anyone else sense a lack of depth there? I love the reminder that Canang Sari bring to the world.
Slow down for a moment of peace and give thanks for all that is life. We can bring balance to our lives, the power is in our intention and how we go about our daily rituals, even if they’re as simple as brushing your teeth or brewing some coffee. Bali is good at showing us how to slow down!
How Tourism is Changing this Sacred Ritual
According to The Bali Bible’s Website, the ritual of creating these offerings is being compromised due to tourism. More women are joining the work force to keep up with the demand of tourism, and therefore have less time to create these offerings every morning. This article goes into how the custom is changing and how more Balinese are purchasing their canang (palm-leaf baskets) from the markets instead of weaving them themselves.
The ritual and tradition of Canang Sari is still strong, but the process is changing. What are your thoughts on that? Let me know in the comments.