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Tuesday 17 January 2012

How to make a Balinese offering

One of the first things I noticed about Bali was the beautiful handmade offerings. These are small baskets made from natural materials and filled with colourful flowers. Giving them is a ritual followed by Hindus who make them for the gods. They are normally offered three times a day, though some people I heard about (my taxi driver’s wife) make 40 a day and even 100 during festivals. It is hoped they bring prosperity to your home, family, business and health. 

  Inside temples they are often seen beside incense.

  Whenever you are out walking you’ll find them placed on the street.

  They even accompany drivers to ensure safe journeys.

Women can be seen making them all over town. While in the UK you notice stall holders reading a book or knitting while waiting for customers, in Bali, they occupy themselves making offerings.
 I discovered two ways to make them. The cheats, quick, modern method is to staple together strips of coconut palm into a basket shape while the traditional and extremely delicate way is to join the strips using a fine bamboo skewer; as demonstrated in this short video I filmed outside an art gallery on the Monkey Forest Road in Ubud. Below I’ve described in more detail how these beautiful baskets are constructed.

You need two raw materials – firstly coconut palm leaves.

  Secondly – fine bamboo skewers.

The first stage is to trim the palm into equal lengths and remove any rough edges.

 There is a vein running down the palm.

For stronger basket the piece of palm can be folded in half so it’s thicker – this is suitable if you’re intending to place a large object like a coconut inside.

To join pieces together you use the bamboo skewer to thread them together, you then break them off, leaving behind a small stitch. When I tried this myself I didn’t get far at all. The bamboo is so fine it snaps instantly so trying to push it through the thick palm takes incredible skill and experience. 
This is the typical small basket made from shorter pieces of palm with strips bent and ‘stitched’ together.

 Or you can make a taller one:

These ones were being made for a local temple to mark a full moon, due to take place in three days time.  

As for what goes inside, fresh flowers, rice and incense are common, all of which can be purchased from markets.
If you don’t want to make your own offering they are in abundant supply on street corners to purchase. Or if you just don’t have the time to make such complicated versions, you can simplify them, by simply placing your offerings on a small leaf.  
It’s quite difficult to get hold of the raw materials to make these offering in the UK in exactly the same way but I plan on making some of my own versions with substitute materials. They don’t have to be religious, they could be offered to friends as gifts by assembling cardboard baskets made with strips stapled together and filled with flowers – also a perfect activity for a craft workshop.