The Artful Blessing- Canang Sari
Updated: Jun 14, 2020
Bali my beautiful island home!!! it seams to me that the Balinese celebrate, bless & appreciate everything every single day. From the moment you step outside if not before you will see evidence of the blessings for the day- Canang Sari - pronounced chanang saree-
Its inevitable that you will see both women & men placing these offerings ceremoniously about on the ground at small temples & outside stores as you head to your morning coffee you can watch as they dip a jepun flower in holy water to sprinkle the canang in a symbolic fusion of the four elements water, earth wind & fire and then watch as the ritual ends with a little prayer spoken as smoke from burning incense carries the essence of the offering to the gods
As you adventure around Bali by foot or sepeda motor you will start to notice small palm leaf baskets filled to the brim with colorful flowers, sweets & incense and quite often lit cigarette lying all about all over the place some fresh & bright with the new days blessings and others a little worse for wear run over & ramshackle awaiting the sweep & scoop of a rattan broom
The name Canang Sari comes from the Balinese words sari meaning essence and canang which describes the small palm-leaf basket made from coconut leaf, betel nut and lime, their base symbolizes three powers – creation, preservation and unity – embodied by three Hindu deities, respectively Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.
Canang Sari are also a daily reminder of gratitude to the Hindu god, Ida Sang Hyang Widhi Wasa for the peace has given to the world.
These spectacular & plentiful mementos of gratitude are filled with colorful flowers. all having their own secret messaging system for the heavens above Those colors are not randomly chosen they have different meanings & even the direction of the flowers can change the message & meaning of the caning sari.
Three main Hindu deities are represented in the canal sari Vishnu Brahma & Shiva
White flowers that point to the east represent Iswara Shiva or Mahadeva - the God of nature
Red flowers that point to the south represent Brahma, the God of power & creation
Yellow flowers that point to the west as a symbol of Mahadeva. Mahadeva means great God
Blue or green lowers that point to the north as a symbol of Vishnu God of protection.
It is the balinese women who carry the tradition of making Canang Sari as well as other offerings, Canang Sari was once one of the most important daily activities for women, today this skill is being lost as you can simply pop to the pasar or market to buy your ready made Canang Sari which is kinda like fast food for prayers .....would you like a side of cigarette incense or a cookies with that appreciation basket?? It may seem a little production but it is still an art form a beautiful part of Balinese culture & tradition. There are a whole lot of busy (female) hands putting these together assembling the contents in a meaningful placement. Local markets open around 4 am so that people can start the days blessings and have that gratitude sent sky high to the heavens as at the dawn breaks!
Each canang sari is different as each persons hopes prayers & expression of gratitude differ Often you will see a small amount of money on top to express selflessness. Food & mini snacks such as candies, crackers & cookies and more recently mini donuts!!!! are also placed beside flower petals so canang sari can as well serve the purpose of feeding stray dogs, monkeys. While we "bule" skillfully dance around the petit pretties ants, birds, dogs cats & squirrels hunt the bountiful blessings throughout the day!
So pretty & petit you will dance & weave your way in and out of them all day, the most polite thing too do is exactly that - walk & weave!! Don't step over or on them because as this is considered culturally disrespectful, especially true for the ones with incense still burning as the smoke (asap) carrying the prayers, wishes & gratitude to the heavens!
If by accident you do have a slip of the Havianna & make contact whilst capturing your latest Instagram snap you may find yourself quite apologizing to a Balinese God & looking to the heavens or if a balinese bares witness to your blasphemy & they will smile he the "its not all bad its a happy life here on Bali" smile
Canang saris are about giving rather than receiving they are a daily reminder to thank the universe for the gift of life & its joyful journey… instead of descending into a spiralling depression for that one false move!!!!