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Coming from the land of spirit houses, where every building has its own ‘home’ for the spirits that supposedly live there which is honored daily with offerings of incense, flower garlands, bits of food and, often, red Fanta, I expected to see canang sari in a similar way – a couple here and there in front of houses or businesses. Instead, I was surprised to see them everywhere.
Unlike the Thai spirit houses and little family altars which are only found at one point around a building, canang sari are placed daily at all altars and shrines in temples and homes, as well as all entrances to buildings, businesses, roads…they’re really everywhere. At one of the guesthouses I stayed in I lost count after I saw twenty of the coconut leaf baskets scattered around the small complex.
Made from materials including coconut and banana leaves, various flowers, little sweet snacks and even cigarettes or small coins, canang sari (canang means tray and sari means essence, referring to the intention of the offering) are a daily practice in devotion, gratitude and self sacrifice with one woman often in charge of creating and distributing the offerings around a home or complex each and every morning.
The belief and dedication required to continue this tradition is incredible and a bit difficult to comprehend coming from a place where people are always feeling pressured for more time and too many work commitments.
The offerings themselves are also beautiful, and though similar, each are slightly unique. While I’m now more familiar with the practice of making daily offerings after living in Thailand, I was continually surprised to see the canang sari on the street since in Thailand offerings of any kind never directly touch the floor. I found myself being very careful not to accidentally step on one of the small boxes or even cross over them, though with so many around its inevitable some will be kicked, or run, over.
Have you been to Bali? What did you think of the colorful canang sari?