Have you seen the little baskets made from banana leaves filled with a bunch of colourful flowers yet? When you walk through the streets of Bali during the evening you will find them everywhere. People put them in front of their houses or their shops. The flower baskets are called “canang”. When you take a closer look at the canangs you will find other things than flowers as well. Sometimes people put rice or little coins in it, even cigarettes, coffee and candy can be found in there. The reason why people do so is that they want to say “thank you” to the Hindu gods Siwa, Brahma and Wisnu. It is like a kind of blessing for their families, health, houses and businesses to ask the gods to make them stay healthy, happy and have good businesses. The ritual of the blessing consists of three elements: fire (api), water (air) and wind symbolized by a flower (bunga). All these elements stand for the three main gods. People put the flowers and all the “presents”, they would like to give, in the canang and light up a incense. The incense is a symbol for the element fire and represents the god Brahma. There is a kind of mystic atmosphere when you walk through the streets of Bali at night time, caused by the smoke of the incense and its beautiful smell. I was told, that Brahma gives motivation to the people and means movement, change and creation and birth, because people need to have fire inside to make changes or create something. After pleasing Brahma with the fire, people sprinkle some water on the canang by dipping a flower in holy water. They repeat this for three times: first for Brahma, second for Wisnu and last for Siwa. Afterwards they also sprinkle the holy water on their own heads, three times again. The element water symbolizes life and represents Wisnu. Wisnu is the god of life(-time). They please him with water, because life comes through water and water keeps life alive. Water also symbolizes time in terms of “time flows by”. Meaning life flows as people get older and then when time is up they die. For the end of life or the end of something there is Siwa. Siwas element is the wind. The wind blows the flower away, but if there is no wind anymore, there is silence and standstill. According to this, if there was no movement anymore, there was death. All these gods symbolize the circle of being born, living a life and passing away and afterwards it starts all over again. Talking about reincarnation in Hinduism, namely the next day you will find the canangs again on the street of Bali.
Terima kasih Wayan, for being my “guru” (teacher) and introducing me to the Balinese culture, Hinduism and sharing the wisdom of your granddad with me.