Bali is an island which is steeped in culture and religion. It is part of the very essence of Bali. And there are so many tiny little gestures and signs of it as you go about your day here. The dominant religion is Hinduism, although Balinese Hinduism takes a very unique form, building on ancient animistic beliefs and reverence for the natural world. It is also heavily based on art and ritual.
Each to their own, of course, but religion is not something that normally interests me particularly. And the more overbearing the religion, the more disinclined I tend to feel. But it is fascinating watching the way in which the Balinese Hindus unobtrusively express their faith. One very obvious example is the making and giving of offerings.
You will see these all over Bali, in all sorts of places. At the entrances of homes, businesses and temples; on statues; even on vehicles as a means of warding off accidents. Often you can see piles of offerings stacked up on top of each other outside important statues and temples, with drifts of incense smoke coming from the topmost layer.
The making and giving of offerings to the gods is part and parcel of everyday life in Bali. Individual offerings can be more or less extravagant, depending on whether it is for a special ceremony or occasion, or just an everyday offering. Many families weave beautifully intricate small trays out of palm or banana leaves to make the offerings in, although the most basic of offerings can also be made on just a flat piece of banana leaf.
There is no grand ceremony in the actual giving of daily offerings. In fact, watching it, I am always struck by the quiet and unassuming reverence with which they are made. But the unpretentious approach to making offerings belies the considerable pride, and complex artistry and symbolism behind offerings. Foods such as rice and fruit are usually included, alongside flowers, but the exact choice and combination of each can carry real significance, and is often specifically linked to a certain ceremony.
Although I am not Hindu myself, there is something in me that finds it very spiritual watching the offerings being made. Bali is one of my all-time favourite places to visit, and living in Brunei means we have been lucky to go more than once. Every time I am here it is one of the highlights of the trip, just soaking in the sight of Balinese people going quietly about their daily business of making offerings. This time is no exception.