The banana, which in Balinese language is called biu or pisang, is very important in the life of the Balinese people. This local fruit grows easily all over the island in all seasons. Bananas come in a great variety, from tiny to large, thin to fat, all with a different taste and texture. Besides being a nourishing food, the leaves are used as wrappings for food, and the soft trunk is used for animal fodder and to hold the puppets of the shadow-puppet play.

Most of all, bananas are an important component of banten (offerings), found in almost every offering in Balinese Hindu rituals. In the sacred book Tegesin Sarwa Banten, which tells about offerings in Bali, the banana is said to be symbolic of the intention to do good (dharma). In offerings, sugarcane or banana is a symbol of amrtha (grace). The banana fruit is also symbolic of fingers, which in traditional Balinese architecture are used as a unit of measurement, along with other parts of the human body.

However, No banana that grows in a cemetery — or indeed anything that grows in a cemetery — can be used in offerings for the gods.

If you visit Bali in early November this year, you can see the use of bananas in Balinese offerings everywhere around the island. This is because the holy festival Galungan, celebrating the victory of dharma (good) over adharma, will start soon.

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