Bloody Balinese ceremonies

Not all Balinese offerings look elegant and sophisticated like Canang Sari, which combines 4 kinds of flowers, woven coconut leaves and handfuls of rice. In the religion of Bali, one must accept both good and bad. We’ve talked a lot about gods, so today we’ll take a look at demons in balinese culture.

The Balinese are trying to gain demons favor with delicious offerings. Since the demons bhuta and kala differ not only in ferocity, but also a special appetite, then the offerings for demons are made in a special way.

monster figure at the Ogoh-Ogoh parade; photo: inspirasipagi

Since demons are not particularly selective, truly from a Balinese perspective, they can quench their hunger with fresh blood from a slaughtered animal. If demons fed properly, they can even help people.

Сaru is a common name for a class of sacrifices made for demons or, more philosophically, for the negative aspects of the universe.

Caru offerings range from the smallest, which require a single chicken sacrifice, to the largest, where many animals are sacrificed.

figures of demons in the parade; photo: beautifulofbali90

Who are these demons of bhuta and kala? They are evil spirits that bring both small and large problems. They are powerful, but they can be controlled with special rituals.

These spirits are depicted on the walls of temples. There are monsters with long fangs, convex eyes, and an evil grin. These spirits are also presented in the figures for the Ngrupuk Demon Parade before the Nyepi Festival.

the figure of the monster in the parade; photo: dharmamagazine

The words bhuta and kala came from Sanskrit. Bhuta means "the impure substance of which the body is composed" or "supernatural being". Kala means "time", "fate" or "god of death."

While the bhuta and kala are demons, they are also, in a general sense, the shadowy, animal side of man and the Hindu universe. They symbolize everything physical, ugly and temporary in the world. This is also greed, passion and hunger in human being.

For the Balinese, bhuta and kala can appear as quite tangible monsters. They are found at crossroads, where balinese put their offerings for them.

The Balinese find it difficult for demons to turn around and go around corners. That's why an alling-aling wall is installed at the entrance to the Balinese yard. It is believed to be an obstacle to the demon's path.

Priests tend to betray a more philosophical meaning to the existence of bhuta and kala. For them, the bhuta and kala are presented as manifestations of competing mystical forces. Thus, the Bhutha is not some kind of monster, but rather a hearth of destructive forces, imbalance, an obstacle that should be smoothed out and zeroed with the help of an offering.

It is believed that man, as a model of the universe, also contains negative forces. Bhuta may be presented as a disease or a bad character.

The Balinese do not believe that negative forces can be defeated once and for all. There is a concept of the coexistence of good and evil in Hinduism, which the Balinese call the rwa bhineda.

the coexistence of evil and good in the form of symbols of the evil demon Rangda and the good spirit Barong; image of Fajareka Setiawan

Thus, evil spirits in the Balinese sense are not destroyed or exterminated. They are being made comfortable.

The offerings for demons in Bali are put on the ground. This does not mean that evil spirits live low on the ground or in the ground, it only indicates the separation of offerings for demons and for good spirits and gods.

an offering for demons on the ground, two Segehan and one Canang Sari; photo by Yudhi Kurniawan.

This is one small exception. All offerings Caru are linked to the murder of an animal. In this case, such murder is not considered cruelty.

When an animal is killed for sacrifice, the Balinese believe that the karma of this animal is improving and that it may become a higher order creature in the future. Moreover, from a Hinduistic point of view, the body means little. It's only a temporary shell.

A dog coloured by a Bangbungkem and a goose before being sacrificed at the Taur Kesang ceremony in 1939 according to the Saka calendar; photo: Made Winingsih

When an animal is killed for sacrifice, it is believed that this action must be done with great reverence. It is made offerings and prayed for by the gods to incarnate it in its next life in a higher status.

The smallest offering Caru is called Segehan. Such an offering does not require to kill an animal.

prepared baskets of segehan (below) ready for the ceremony; photo: @gus_leved

There are several species of Segehan, but the most popular is ituk-ituk. It consists of a triangular cup made from coconut leaf. The offering contains onions and ginger. Onions are believed to be cold and ginger is hot. Thus, these opposites remind the bhutas and kalas of the need to maintain balance in the universe.

The simplest Segehan contains two lumps of cooked rice. As a rule, such offerings are placed at the entrance to the house so that bhuta and kala do not feel interested in entering. Sometimes, a canang sari is added. Usually, the person who makes the offering dispels the flavor by hand and sprinkles it with three drops of rice wine.

lumps of colored rice according to the dedication to a particular god; photo: tokomasari

Some balinese put up segehan every day. Some Balinese do it only at holidays on Kajeng Kliwon, which takes place every 15 days, because the Balinese believe that the spirits are the most active on that day.

Larger offerings are made often by the priest, as they have many subtleties about how to make them properly.

Colour symbolism plays a major role in the ceremony. The whole universe is oriented also on colours.

Shiva is in the center, and is usually symbolized by white, but in this case it can combine all colors. The colors and arrangements of other gods are as follows:

  • - north: Vishnu, black.
  • - northeast: Sambu, blue
  • - east: Isvar, white
  • - southeast: Mahesor, pink
  • - south: Brahma, red
  • - southwest: Rudra, orange
  • - west: Mahadeva, yellow
  • - northwest: Sangkara, green

Color for rice in offerings is also important. White, red and black rice grows in Bali. To get yellow rice, the Balinese use turmeric. Other colors are usually obtained by shop food colours. For large offerings, a different color of rice characterizes a cardinal direction and a mixture of different colours is placed in the centre. This mixture is called brunbun.

In contrast to the situation with the offerings for gods, the components of Caru are not eaten by demons. Usually leftovers are dumped in a river.

Most Caru are performed using a temporary sanctuary. It is called sanggah cucuk, woven from split bamboo and made either as a triangle or a small arch. The same sanctuaries are made at the base of penjors, which can be seen on the roadsides during major holidays.

sangah cucuk decorated with an ornate cloth; photo: tetandinganbanten

The Balinese believe that the size of Caru is proportional to the length of time it is effective. A simple Segehan is valid for a day, a small Caru offering is effective for 6 months. Some may have an effect within a few days. The largest offerings, which are held during the ritual of Eka Dasa Rudra, work for 100 years.

an offering for demons; photo: @upakara_tamansari

The next most difficult ceremony after Segekhan is called Eka Sata. It is performed during a purification ritual for the new home, melaspas. Or the day before [filing teeth] (,119249.0.html) . It requires one motley chicken.

an offering for demons - panca sata; photo:

The next level is Panca Sata. For this ceremony you need 5 chickens of different colors, which represent different sides of the world. White, red, yellow, black and motley chicken is in the center. This ceremony is usually held once a year before the Nyepi Festival. Temple festivals in some villages also sometimes require Panca Satu.

The next difficult ceremony is Panca Kalaud. During this ceremony, 5 chickens of different colours are sacrificed with a dog of a special colour that is called bangbungkem / blang bungkem in Bali. These dogs have a black muzzle and are either red or brown in colour. The Balinese consider this symbolism of Rudra, one of the aspects of the god Shiva. Such a ceremony can be held during the reconstruction of the temple.

photo: @infotampaksiring

Another level of ceremony is Rsi Gana. It needs the same animals as the previous ones, and one more white duck.

Warespati Kalpa ritual is the next level, and one goose is added to the list of victims.

The highest form of Caru ceremony is Taur or Tawur. In translation it literally means "payment". Such a ceremony, namely the Tawur Kesangga, is held annually in the temple of the Pura Besakih before Nyepi. To the animals listed below are added: one water buffalo, a goat, a cow, a black pig and a black white goose.

In a way, cockfighting in Bali is also part of a ritual designed to calm demons by spilling blood.

cockfights; photo:

On the one hand, cockfights can be seen as gambling, which is generally prohibited in Indonesia. But on the other hand, it is a very ancient form of pastime, part of the island's traditions and if you look closely, you can almost always find where they are held in Bali.

It is perfectly legal to hold cockfights in Bali as part of a religious ceremony. The ceremony is a kind of blood offering - the Tabun Rah.

cockfights; photo: nusabali

The man performing the ritual holds a container of fresh blood in his left hand, which is intended for the gods. The brush of his right hand dispels its scent and essence so that it reaches the right direction. Often this hand also holds a flower between its thumb and index finger. Then the container is taken in the right hand and its contents are spilled on the ground.

If a rooster is wounded during the fight, the container is not required. He is simply given to spill his blood on the ground.

cockfights; photo: hindubersuara

In complex temple ceremonies during the ritual of matabuh the Balinese use five types of drink according to the five symbolic colours of the gods.

  • Tuak, palm wine - white.
  • Palm brandy - yellow.
  • Brem, rice wine - black.
  • Pure water - transparent
  • Blood - red.

These five liquids are associated with five fluids in the human body - lymph, digestive juice, bile, serum and blood. Their use in the Tabuh ceremony gives hope that the five fluids in the body will be balanced in harmony with the macrocosm.