Religion, culture and etiquette in Bali

Bali is such a fascinating island that is bursting with interesting people and different ways of life. We are very interested in the Balinese lifestyle and it was important for us to learn and get down with the locals whilst on our trip.

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Many religions are practiced on the island however the prominent religion is Hinduism (or Bali’s version of Hinduism). The island is referred to as the ‘Island of Gods’ and is home to over 20,000 beautiful temples.

You will regularly come across temples that are immaculately stunning, most temples are well kept and cleaned regularly.

Going to temple daily is not uncommon for the Balinese locals, in fact, many have small temples within their homes.

When visiting temples, it is important to wear a sarong to cover your legs below the knee, it is also important to cover your shoulders with either a shawl or top.  Sarongs can usually be borrowed at the temple entrance however we would recommend purchasing your own. They are sold cheaply in many shops and we personally thought they were a meaning-full souvenir.

Women should not enter any temple whilst menstruating as this is considered impure.

Check in with the locals before you start to take pictures at the temple – some temples do not allow photography – please respect this.

In some temples (and shops) you are required to remove your shoes before entering, this is to preserve the sanctity of the temple (or shop). It is always very clear where this rule applies as you will see a line of shoes on entering.

As soon as you arrive in Bali you will more than likely see a Canang Sari within the first hour of landing. Canang Saris are daily offerings made to thank the Hindu gods, they are also a prayer for peace and balance every day. They are placed in front of shops, homes, temples and on top of statues.  Canang Saris are small handmade boxes made from woven palm leaves filled with meaningful items. Every item in the box is meaningful to the Hindu god.

They are very colourful and usually contain brightly coloured flowers. Early in the morning when the offering is first placed you will smell wisps of incense as you pass, incense sticks are often one of the items that are placed inside the Canang Sari.

Each morning traditionally the ladies of the household will prepare several Canang Saris for the family. They will place the beautifully handmade offerings in their locations whilst praying.

When passing Canang Saris in the street you should never touch and always walk around them, never should you stand on the offering, this is disrespectful.

You will often see people with a grain of rice between the eyebrows, this is believed to be good for fortune and prosperity. The women and girls will also wear a frangipani flower in their hair, this is dedicated to the Hindu gods and the holy spirits.

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Religious ceremonies take HUGE priority in Bali. The locals will spend days/ weeks preparing and building up to the big day(s). There are some ceremonies that visitors are allowed to attend, if you are lucky enough to find one we would defiantly recommend attending. The passion, the love and happiness from the locals at the ceremonies is priceless to watch.  The locals will dress the streets and temples beautifully with decorations. On the day of ceremony, the whole family will dress in colourful traditional clothing and the women will ensure their hair and makeup is immaculate. Ceremonies are a huge part of the Balinese life and should be respected by all visitors.

Balinese culture focuses mainly on art, music and religion. All three are often put together and the traditional Balinese dances are a great example of this. The dances all express a story by using the whole body in a dramatic way, the costumes, music, and atmosphere are extremely impressive! We would recommend going to see at least one dance whilst on your trip in Bali – Click on the link below for the Balinese dance performance schedule:

DANCE SCHEDULE

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Image from: balihellotravel.com

Wood carving and painting is very popular amongst the Balinese, their work is extremely skilled.  You will see their masterpieces for sale in all of the markets over the island. Please keep in mind when bartering for handcrafted/ hand painted items that somebody has spent a lot of time and effort in creating the work – take this into consideration when making an offer.

Bahasa Bali is the local language and is spoken by some locals however the commonly spoken language is Bahasa Indonesia. We found that the Balinese were extremely willing to teach you their language.

‘Travel to be educated’ 

Balinese believe that the head is the most sacred place on the body therefore you should not touch their head under any circumstances – this applies to children also.

We noticed that a handshake and a slight bow of your head when greeting the locals was respectful, the Balinese call this the Salam.

Use your left hand with caution as in Bali the left hand is reserved for hygiene purposes. Try to remember to shake hands and offer things with your right hand.

Address males as ‘Pak’ (Mr) and women as ‘Ibu’ (Ms). Example: if a gentleman’s name is Amin, address him as Pak Amin (Mr Amin).

You will quickly find yourself hearing the same Balinese names everywhere you go. Most Balinese name their children in the order that they are born. As a first born you will be called either Wayan, Putu or Gede. Second child is Made or Kadek, third is either Nyoman or Komang and fourth are named Ketut. All names can be used for both male and female. Our good friend Putu was a firstborn.

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