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You may have noticed unusual decorations lining the streets of Bali – long ornamental bamboo poles that can be seen towering outside the entrances to houses and local businesses. These unique structures are known as penjor.

So what is it all about?

The penjor is used by Hindus in Bali as part of almost every important ceremony, especially for the anniversary temple celebrations. The Sri Jaya Kasunu manuscript states that the pen- jor symbolizes the mountain and the mountain itself is the symbol of the universe. Therefore, for the Balinese, the penjor is synonymous with Mount Agung, the highest and holiest mountain in Bali. Each part and ornament of the penjor has a deep religious meaning. For example, the strong bamboo pole is a symbol of a devotion. The four essential palm-leaf ornaments of the penjor: tamyang, bakang-bakang, sampyan and the lamakare symbolize the Catur Weda, four pillars of Hindu holy script. The ubag-abig, a square ornament made of palm and coconut leaves – represents the power of virtue.

The basic material of a penjor is a curved bamboo pole. The pole is decorated with yellow coconut leaves, pala bungkah (roots – sweet potato or cassava), pala gantung (fruit – cucumbers, orang- es, bananas), pala wija (cereal – rice, corn), plawa (leaves), traditional cakes, 11 Chinese coins, and a small shrine with some offerings. All materials for a penjor constitute peoples’ basic needs, signifying that we should take care of those things.■

Bali Pocket Magazine