Inseparable from the religious rituals of Bali are the many temples of the island. To the Balinese, temples and their various structures are not worshipped but are meant to be a pleasant resting place for the gods on their stay on the island. Every house has its own little shrine, usually a dedication to their ancestors. The rice field has a shrine dedicated to Dewi Sri, the goddess of rice.
Dewi Sri is believed to have dominion over the underworld and the Moon. She encompasses the whole spectrum of “mother goddess”.
This is her story:
Once upon a time in the heavens the Batara Guru (Supreme God) commanded all the gods and goddesses to contribute their power in order to build a new palace. Anybody who disobeyed this commandment would lose his or her head.
Upon hearing the commandment, one of the gods, Anta, became anxious. Shaped as a snake, he didn’t have arms or legs and he wasn’t sure how he could possibly contribute to the job. This made him upset and as he was crying three teardrops fell to the ground. Amazingly, after touching the ground those teardrops became three eggs. His friend advised him to offer those eggs to the Batara Guru hoping that he would give a fair judgement.
With the three eggs in his mouth Anta went to the Batara Guru’s palace. On the way there he was approached by a black bird who asked him a question. He couldn’t answer because of the eggs in his mouth. The bird thought that Anta was being arrogant and became angry and attacked Anta shattering two of the eggs.
Finally Anta arrived at the palace and offered his last teardrop (in the shape of an egg) to the Batara Guru. The offer was accepted and the Batara Guru asked him to nest the egg until it hatched. Miraculously the egg hatched into a very beautiful girl. He gave the baby girl to the Batara Guru and his wife who named her Nyi Pohi Sanghian Sri. Nyi grew up into a beautiful princess becoming more and more beautiful as the days passed by. As her beauty grew every man who saw her became attracted to her. Even her stepfather the Batara Guru started to feel an attraction toward her.
This became a great concern to all the gods became and they decided to separate Nyi and the Batara Guru. To keep the peace in the heavens and to maintain Nyi Pohaci’s good name, all the gods planned for her death. She was poisoned and her body buried on earth in a hidden place. It was decided that her death should mean something and so at the time of her burial, up grew a useful plant that would forever benefit all human beings. From her eyes grew the plant that is called padi.
Almost all family life in Bali involves giving of offerings and caring for shrines. Offerings of fruit, flowers, incense, even plastic-wrapped packet of biscuits are left for the comfort of their gods who are welcomed to rest at the shrines.
Watch out for these offerings all around you if you visit Bali. You will spot them on roadsides, in fields and in commercial settings, like in this restaurant.