My Lesson in Making Balinese Canang Sari

On a quiet morning in Ubud, I was invited to the rice paddy-encircled home of Nyoman and family to learn how to make beautiful canang sari. These floral spiritual offerings adorn Bali’s village and family temples, street intersections, home entrances, and any spot that the Balinese people believe to be sacred, including special trees and statues.

Ubud Rice Paddies


Since the Balinese believe that offerings should be created with a thankful spirit, it was fitting that I made the visit on the American Thanksgiving holiday. I was utterly thrilled to have a master teacher show me the ropes!

Canang is a small, square coconut-leaf basket overflowing with a variety of brilliant flowers, whereas sari means ‘essence.’  (For example, a modest amount of money could make up the essence of a Balinese offering known as kepeng. One night while walking along the beach in southern Bali, we saw a canang sari waiting to be carried out to sea, along with a modest kepeng.) The Balinese make canang sari offerings on a daily basis.

Nyoman crafts 100-150 canang sari per day, using all organic materials. This labor of love and devotion takes her approximately two hours. In addition to the mounds of vibrant buds, Nyoman uses coconut leaves and bamboo that is shaved into a toothpick-like thread. When I took my first shot at weaving this ‘thread’ through the various loops of the frilly basket, the session concluded with multiple snaps of the thread and giggles on my and Nyoman’s part.

Canang sari embody Balinese Hinduism and the religion’s aim to make the world balanced through Tri Hita Karana. Parahyangan means ‘God’, Pawongan means ‘human’ and Palemahan means ‘nature.’ Tri Hita Karana is represented with a special three-piece component that is included in every canang sari. Nyoman instructed me to place this at the bottom, underneath the flowers.

The philosophy behind the offering is self sacrifice – it takes an extraordinary amount of time and effort to prepare canang sari, and as Nyoman attested (by showing her calloused and cut fingers) the offerings can also take a toll on their crafter’s hands.

After my lesson, as well as a fun interaction with Nyoman’s grandson (who loved the Haribo gummy bear finger puppet we left with him), we returned to our home away from home, Nirwa Homestay, where we left the banana leaf-wrapped offerings at the entry way to our room. It was a fitting way to say thanks for the wonderful people we have met in the Bali, as well as our special family and friends around the world.

Where in the World?

Planning Pointers:

  •  During our 2 weeks in Ubud, we stayed at the Nirwa Homestay (affiliate link). The family-run guest house was surrounded by a panorama of vibrant rice paddies, and our soundtrack was that of nature: soprano crickets, confident roosters and babbling canals. If you go, be sure to order Ayu’s legendary green banana pancakes for breakfast.
  • Need more inspiration? See all my posts from Bali, Indonesia.

Photography & text © Tricia A. Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

10 thoughts on “My Lesson in Making Balinese Canang Sari

    1. Victor, after learning how to make the canang sari, I valued them not only for their beauty, but also for all the hard work that goes into making them. Balinese ladies (of all ages) craft them, and make a little business out of selling them to the locals whose busy jobs don’t allow them time to hand-craft them anymore. Our guest house owner, for example, buys her canang sari from the woman I featured in this blog.

  1. That’s the family’s window out into the world of tranquil Ubud (picture three)! I was struck by the beauty just outside the their doorstep and had to capture it. Perhaps you’ll try your hand at making canang sari now that you’ve had a lesson? :)

  2. The western world could learn a lot from countries such as Bali, especially about appreciating the important things in life instead of the consumer driven materialistc world we live in. Beautiful culture – and pictures.

    1. Hello, Jane – I agree wholeheartedly! It is my sincere hope that Bali will be able to retain its incredible traditions that make it such a special place. So happy you enjoyed my post and that it allowed you to stow away to Bali in spirit. Wishing you a wonderful day in your corner of the world. :)

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