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Indonesia: Honoring the Rice Mother, Dewi Sri

In Bali, rice embodies Dewi Sri—the rice mother—goddess of life and fertility. The best loved and most worshipped Hindu deity, she is everywhere, both male and female.

From everyday rituals—such as putting pinches of rice along the edges of fields to keep evil spirits and animals at bay—to grand temple celebrations with elaborate offerings of dyed rice paste, the Balinese fervently honor their rice mother.

Without Dewi Sri, they believe they would be lifeless and empty. Men, women and children absorb her life force into their bodies by moistening their foreheads, temples, and chests with holy water and sticking kernels of uncooked rice to their skin.

Source: Peter T. White, "Rice: the Essential Harvest," National Geographic, May 1994.

Fred B. Eiseman Jr., "Children of the Rice Mother," Discovery, Vol. 12, No. 11.

Photos: Robb Kendrick

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