Religion and prayer are so much a part of everyday life in Bali.

The first waking act of a Balinese household 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 one gets to work; in a market, a shop, or on the beach. Also, this is often seen in 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 those0 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 one prays in a composed, peaceful, harmonious state.  Men usually sit cross-legged and the women kneel.
  •  Karashadana – The incense smoke which rises to make connection with the gods is gathered in the hands and swept across the face, linking one 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 – Recognize 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 colored flowers with the fingertips.
  •  Samidaya – Three or more flowers are held up to symbolize the great unknowable one – Sanghyang Widi Wasa, the trinity of Brahma, Wisnu and Siwa and all of the lesser gods which are visualized in many forms and for many purposes throughout the world.
  •  Shanti – A closing prayer with open hands again, seeking inner peace and world peace. This part of the prayer finishes with a smile to recognize 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 is cupped in the left, and is then held up and filled with holy water three times for drinking, and then three times to wash the head and face. A final handful 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.


This is adapted from:

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