Travellers to Bali will not be there for very long before they see a Balinese at prayer, on the street, on the beach, in a car park or a market or at home. Even in a temple. This is because religion and prayer are so much a part of everyday life in Bali.
The first waking act of a Balinese mother is to take offerings to the family temple which is found in all homes in the corner of the family compound nearest Mount Agung, the holy mountain where the Balinese gods live. The gods will receive their offerings up in the family shrine and the demons, who are part of the balance between good and evil that is the cornerstone of Balinese prayer, will receive theirs on the ground.
This is an everyday act of devotion.
These acts of devotion will be repeated when she gets to work; in a market, a shop, or on the beach. Husbands will similarly pray and make offerings to the gods and the result of this is often seen in their hire cars and taxis where a small square, woven leaf tray will contain some flowers, a candy, a dry biscuit and a stick of incense.
Look for the grains of rice stuck to the forehead or throat of the girls who serve you in the supermarkets. They signify a particular occurrence of prayer at the temple where blessings are received through a priest.
But what is the symbolism of the Balinese act of prayer?
There are generally 8 steps to the act of devotion:
* 'Asana & Pranayama'. The incense is lit and the person prepares themselves to pray in a composed, peaceful, harmonious state. The men sit cross-legged and the women kneel, breathing is controlled and slow.
* 'Karashadana'. The incense smoke which rises to make connection with the gods is gathered in the hands and swept across the face, linking the person with their gods.
* 'Atmatatwa'. Praying with open, empty hands to connect the soul and to the gods.
* 'Sryanamastuti'. One flower, often a white frangipanni, is held up in the finger tips recognising the supreme god Sanghyang Widi Wasa who is symbolised by the daily rising of the sun.
* 'Tri-murti'. Recognising the trinity of Brahma, Wisnu and Iswara (or Siwa), the gods of creation, preservation and destruction, the cycle of life. This is done by holding coloured flowers up in the fingertips.
* 'Samidaya'. Three or more flowers are held up to symbolise the great unknowable one - Sanghyang Widi Wasa, the trinity of Brahma, Wisnu and Siwa and all of the lesser gods which are visualised in many forms and for many purposes throughout the world.
* 'Shanti'. A closing prayer with open hands again, seeking inner peace, peace between peoples and world peace. This part of the prayer finishes with a smile to recognise the happiness of the peace.
* 'Nunus Tirta'. This part occurs when the prayer is made in a temple. The person waits quietly until the priest sprinkles holy water over the person. The right hand in the cupped left is then held up and filled with holy water three times for drinking then three times to wash the head and face. A final handful of water is followed by grains of rice which are pressed to the forehead, the temples and the throat, with the final few eaten and sprinkled onto the head.
The Balinese are quite un-abashed about their religion and their prayers.
They will welcome your company almost any time you care to ask and will explain the activities as well as their language skills will allow.
Here are some quick links to take you back to the start or on to somewhere else:-
* Back to our main contents page?
* More about Agama Hindu, the religion of Bali?
* Some information about the history and culture of Bali and the Balinese?
* What about some tips for travelling to Bali with your children?
* Pictures and the story of our 2006 holiday in Bali?
* The intricacies of money exchange, bargaining and tipping in Bali?