Simple and meaningful offerings are enough: Religious leader

by Luh De Suriyani on 2012-09-01

Prominent Hindu leader Mpu Jaya Prema Ananda has repeatedly called on the Balinese to present simple yet meaningful offerings, locally called banten, during religious rituals and for daily occasions.

One of the proponents of the Hindu religion, the high priest from Tabanan insisted that offerings did not have to be elaborate, something which could be economically burdensome for many low-income families.

Balinese Hindu followers strongly believe that offerings are presented to honor the gods, their ancestors and the underworld creatures.

Colorful and intricate offerings, starting from simplest presentation to the elaborate towering gebogan, are created as symbols of their dedication and are meant to express their gratitude and to balance their lives.

Every day, women prepare a large variety of offerings from early in the morning, after cooking their family’s meals, to the afternoon prayers.

A simple offering, called canang sari, may consist of palm leaf baskets filled with colorful flowers, fruit and food.

More ornate offerings, including gebogan, sarad and gayah, are usually produced during the Odalan temple ceremonies and major religious holidays, such as Galungan and Kuningan.

Gebogan are made of a one-to two-meter high banana trunk decorated with layers of fruit, rice cakes in various shapes and colors, arrangements of flowers and ornaments.

“In the Hindu religion, people are allowed to choose the levels of the rituals — utama (foremost and elaborate rituals), madya (moderate) and nista (simplest), in accordance with their capability in terms of knowledge and finance,” the priest explained.

There were no sayings or instructions that forced people to present complicated and costly banten.

The priest went on to say people could use less elaborate banten when performing certain rituals, without eliminating the real essence of the ceremony.

“The use of simple banten will reduce costs, but the meaning of the ritual will not be diminished,” he said.

In Buleleng regency, he said, there was a village in which people were used to simplifying ngaben, the cremation ritual.

“They have never created a big bade [multi-tiered cremation tower]to carry the deceased’s body to the cemetery. They just carry the body with a simple bamboo carriage and take it to the site. It is uncomplicated, yet very serene,” he said.

For the royal families, like the ones in Puri Ubud royal house, the priest said, the lavish cremations could serve as their highest honor to the late family members.

“It could also be a unique tradition for tourists to witness, with wide coverage from both domestic and international media. That is fine, they are financially capable of holding such a large and luxurious ceremony,” commented the priest.

Mpu Jaya is one of the Hindu leaders who encourages people to hold mass cremations.

“People will no longer postpone this important rite of passage only because they have no money. By holding mass cremations, they will quickly hold this ritual for their deceased family members,” he noted.

“Hinduism is a simple religion. For those who do not understand the core of Hinduism, it may seem the religion is complicated and impractical,” Mpu Jaya said.

“I always perform my daily prayers using a flower petal taken from my own garden accompanied by dupa [incense] and water. That is adequate. The most important point is your clear mind and heart,” he said.

Offerings are now becoming profitable commodities. Hundreds of women sell canang sari and other offerings in traditional markets.

A study conducted by Udayana University said that Balinese people spent billions of rupiah on offerings every year.

In the past, only families of high-caste Brahmana were entitled to create offerings and sell them to those who needed them.

“Now, everybody can create offerings as we have guide books,” he said.

Ni Nyoman Nilawati is one of the commoners who now sells banten at Pasar Agung Peninjoan traditional market.

“I used to help making offering at a griya — house of the Brahmana. I had sufficient knowledge on how to prepare each offering,” Nilawati said.

At first, she hesitated to sell banten at the market. “It looked too commercial, seeing people sell banten,” she added.

But times have changed. “People, mostly women, are now working outside their homes and have neither the time nor the energy to prepare banten. They mostly buy canang sari for daily offerings and order special offerings for certain important rituals, such as purnama [full moon] or pecaruan [purification] ceremonies,” she said.

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