Candi bentar on Bali
The whole island of Bali is one big temple. Driving or walking through these huge candi bentars (split gateways) you enter a new part of it time and again. You feel surrounded by their attempt to seek balance and harmony between dharma (order in the cosmos) and adharma (disorder): it travels through the air, like the smoke of the incense sticks and the sounds of the gongs and xylophones.
Every guesthouse looks like a temple, with decorated Ganesha's at adorned gates. Holy statues hide between shops, and small offerings are placed everywhere - no thing too humble, no item too common to earn an offering. Everything deserves protection and blessings and good luck. I understand why the Balinese are keeping up these frantic rituals: it has certainly gained them a lot.
Balinese Hinduism has roots in Indian Hinduism and Buddhism, but they mix it up with lots of other things good and appealing, like animism - a worldview in which basically every element of nature possesses a spiritual essence and is therefore a potential home for spirits. The expressions of their beliefs is reminiscent to the Thai ways with Buddhism, in the sense of using offerings, flowers, foods and such to please and appease the spirits. The people carry a flower behind one ear and some grains of rice on their foreheads, not the bindi of the Indians.
Driving around on motorbikes, at first, your mind tries to grasp all it sees, attempts to hold on to every detail. But soon you realize it's too overwhelming, there's too much to process. You let all the fractions of beauty become a blur, letting all the loveliness fly by you as you race through it, so it becomes one big wrapper of glorious grace. The middle son, sitting in front of me on the scooter, exclaimed: "the world is such a beautiful place! Not just nature, but also the things men made!" It's true, the natural world and cultural decorations really complement each other perfectly here. Even when the surroundings are disorderly, the little specs of crafted offerings, adornments or flowers will brighten up the whole place.
Balinese Hinduism is not only expressed in rituals throughout the day, but also in their art. It amazes me how much time they spend on both. However, the spiritual and the practical go hand in hand. Scooters need blessings too and no matter how much time they invest in conducting their rituals, they can combine holy missions with daily errants.
What I also really love about the candi bentar is that they most likely only serve for aesthetic purpose, to create a sense of grandeur before entering a religious compound or shrine. It's pretty just because it's possible, the Balinese are not yet contaminated by the effectiveness of our western world where everything must be fast, cheap, practical. Here, so many gestures are a pure expression of gratitude and celebration, of love, the earth, nature, life, the gods.