Trust the people of Bali when it comes to heavy symbolism and deeply rooted meanings behind a simple item.
Case in point is Saput Poleng - the commonly seen black and white checkered cloth that is used to draped over a certain thing, be it around an old tree, a statue, or around officials’ waists as sarong. Its appearance is also ever present around other sacred tools during holy ceremonies.
The philosophical meaning in this ubiquitous fabric lies in the very contrasting colors which reflect the opposite ideas of every element on the earth. White represents the pure, the good, the divine; whereas black is symbolic for the dark, the bad, and the evil. Together, they make a harmonious balance between two of the most eternal and omnipresent opposites - just like the blend of the interconnecting Yin and Yang.
In Balinese Hinduism, which is the religion of the majority, harmony and balance are 2 elements that naturally occur in daily life. So when a saput poleng is pinned onto something, it means that the certain item guards the energy to keep the “black & white” sanctity of an area.
There is also 2 different types of saput poleng with grey in addition to black and white, which stands as a transition to align the good and the bad. Another one is red which symbolizes energy and passion to balance the two solid black and white.
Locals often regard saput poleng with high respect, don’t be surprised if you see a motorbiker honks as a way of honoring a tree or a statue with this cloth. If you want to do the same, by all means, go ahead and do it.
May peace always be bestowed upon us,