Pak Mangku (whose given name is Nyoman) is Potato Head Family’s pemangku (priest), entrusted with the spiritual well-being of our environment and the people within it, a crucial role. Bali is known as “The Island of the Gods,” and each of the gods must be paid due attention through regular ceremonies, prayers and daily rituals, including the careful distribution of canang sari.
The making of these offerings is a craft in itself and the time spent represents the Balinese people’s self sacrifice to their gods. Each little basket is folded by hand using strips of coconut palm leaves before being filled with betel nut leaves, sugar cane, sliced banana, rice, sweet-smelling pandan leaves, lime and adorned with indigenous flowers of many hues. If you pay close attention, you will see that each little cradle is topped with different gifts. Along with a burning incense stick, cigarettes, sachets of coffee, rice crackers, biscuits, coins and sometimes even a spare gorengan (piece of deep-fried tofu or tempeh) complete the charming little tokens.
Derived from the ancient Kawi language of Java, Bali and Lombok, the word “canang” comes from “ca” meaning beautiful, and “nang,” meaning purpose, and with flowers of four different colours to represent specific Hindu Gods, they are a fitting tribute to their name.
In fact, the Balinese utilise components of the canang sari during worship. A temple visit typically includes five prayers, sometimes with empty clasped hands, other times grasping a single or a selection of different coloured flowers between the fingertips, with each symbolic gesture a sign of recognition and thankfulness to a specific Hindu deity. The final step involves the ceremonial sprinkling of holy water and application of a few grains of rice onto the forehead, the location of the third eye chakra.
Beautiful to behold, carefully put together, and alluring to smell, Bali’s canang sari are like mini hampers to their Gods, emanating that sweet, lingering smell that instantly recalls Bali.