Religion and Spirituality in Bali

At the blessing ceremony for the Longhouse in April 2008

Bali is a Hindu Island in the middle of the world’s most populous Islamic nation.

Both Buddhist and Hindu influences in Bali date back at least to the 9th Century AD. In 1343, Bali was conquered by the Majapahit empire and even today, the cultural impact of that time is still in evidence in many aspects of Balinese life, but particularly in the religious practices of the Balinese. While the Balinese religion is Hindu, Buddhist and animistic elements from ancient times give it it’s own very special charm.

The landscape of Bali is dotted with temples large and small. The ancient mother temple on the slopes of Gunang Agung, the picturesque temple at Tanah Lot and the dramatic Cliffside temple at Uluwatu are commonly seen in guide books and postcards. But temples are found in every village and indeed every house. The Longhouse’s main temple  which protects and guards the house (Padmasari) is located outside the door of Bali bedroom and a second temple (Penunggun Karang) can be seen at the entrance of the house. Offerings are presented on a daily basis and ceremonies conducted on appropriate days throughout the year.

Every day Balinese women spend time making canang, small offerings comprised of a basket created from young palm leaves and containing flowers, shredded pandan leaves and other objects such as food or even money. These offerings are sometimes placed in the temple for the gods and sometimes in other strategic places. You will see them on the dashboards of cars, in front of shops and of course, in the  Longhouse. When these offerings are placed lower than a man’s breast, their purpose is to appease the buthan  or demons that can cause havoc in daily life.

For the Balinese people, religion is a daily devotion punctuated with many personal and shared ceremonies throughout the year. The religion of Bali, practiced by all Balinese is the glue that holds the culture together and the foundation for almost every aspect of Balinese life.

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