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  Types of Offerings

FIRE, water, and flowers are the basic components of all offerings. Additional items are given according to one's profession and wealth, and the season in which they're made. No matter what the offering, it must be of the finest ingredients and ritually cleansed before being placed.

The variety is mind-boggling, in countless designs and styles. Some offerings may even be as simple as a few grains of rice placed on a banana leaf.

Once you know what to look for, you begin to see offerings everywhere-in rice fields, yards, trees, and temples. Three-meter-long palm-leaf panels and scrolls, a captivating cili figure with fan-shaped headdress and long, graceful arms.

Spectacular, colorful gebogan or banten tegeh are enormous towers of up to three meters, embellished with glass, paintings, roast ducks or chickens, suckling pigs, pig entrails, garlands of white 'cempaka', and fragrant yellow jepun blossoms. They're carried on the heads of women to the temple, blessed by the pemangku and sprinkled with holy water.

Gods and goddesses, who protect or threaten every act performed by a person during his or her lifetime, inhabit stone thrones and statues or simply hover in the air. Gods are often invited down to visit earth and are gorged with offerings and entertained with music and dance, but eventually they must go back home because they're too expensive to maintain.

The Balinese always try to stay on the good side of all the forces. If the spirits are kept happy, the people can relax and even grow lighthearted. Children carry flowers to shrines and learn to dance at an early age to please the gods and the raja.

Feasts mark special periods in an infant's first year: three days after birth, 42 days after the first bath, 105 days after birth, and 210 days after birth-the first birthday celebration.

At each stage of the agricultural cycle ceremonies are held, offerings made, and holy texts chanted. Even cockfighting was originally a temple ritual-blood spilled for the gods.

During the 1965 political butchering in which 50,000 Balinese were killed, victims dressed in spotless white ceremonial attire before being led away to execution. Devils were believed to live in the communists or their sympathizers, and their deaths were necessary to cleanse the island of evil.

Heaven? The Balinese believe heaven will be exactly like Bali. While offerings for the gods-money, flowers, rice, fruits, parts of pigs-are like presents given to human beings, gifts given to 'buta' are smelly, moldy, or decayed plants and food thrown contemptuously on the ground.

Entrances to temples and 'kampung' are constructed in such a way-with mazes, narrow lanes, dead ends, high mud walls, sliding gates, barricades, etc.-so as to confuse and bewilder evil spirits. Besides the delightful fellow at left, the 'reverse' 'buta' stands on its head, loiters around trees, forests, and swimming holes, and is a favorite guardian at temple gates.

Other 'buta' come in the form of a dirty little dwarf (togtogsil) with a large pointed tooth. Yet another consists of an arm or a leg with a hideous face. One popular ploy is to summon demons and spirits to a feast, then expel them with magic formulas.


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