The 5 Most Important Ceremonies in a Balinese Person’s Life

The 5 Most Important Ceremonies in a Balinese Person’s Life

The life of a Balinese person is peppered with distinct ceremonies that denote hallmark events and milestones in their lives. The rich cultural tapestry of this island deeply favours spiritual practices and upholding time honoured traditions. Ceremonies are a time for family, friends, neighbours and the whole community to come together and celebrate a significant moment in someone’s life. 

1. Turun Tanah

The name day of a child is an important one as it is their first holistic contact with religion. On this day, they are blessed by the holy trinity of Gods – Brahma the creator, Vishnu the sustainer and Shiva the destroyer. It is said that these blessings give the child all the guidance they will need in life. 

2. Nyabutin ceremony

This sacred ceremony is crucial for a Balinese baby as it marks the first time that their feet touch the ground. For the first three months of their lives, babies are not allowed to be on the ground. By the time they are 105 days old, they are considered to be anchored to the spiritual world. There is a ceremony around the occasion when they touch Mother Earth for the first time, and only close friends, family and the priest are present. The baby is showered with gifts and blessed with holy water. 

3. Mepandes

This is one of the biggest ceremonies in a young person’s life in Bali. To celebrate their move from adolescence into adulthood, a tooth filing ceremony is conducted. Once they reach puberty, they are subjected to this. The traditional dentist, sangging, has a big role to play in this process as the canines of a person are filed flat in this ceremony. The canines represent the animalistic side of humans, the wild and untameable aspects which are better to be done away with. Tooth Filling is supposed to prevent humans from having the sad or destructive desires, including from dama (lust), lobha (greed), kroda (anger), moha (anxiety), manha (concern), and matsarya (envy). 

4. Pawiwahan

A wedding for the Balinese, is more than just a romantic union of two people. It also represents the Yadnya way of unifying the spirit and the material world. The ceremony is only considered complete if the groom and bride are considered full citizens of their villages, or banjars and have all the rights and obligations there. Therefore, it also marks the time in their lives when they step into their village as fulfilled citizens. 

5. Ngaben

For the Balinese, death is very much a natural part of the cycle of life and something to celebrate and revere, rather than fear. The funeral ceremony of Ngaben is one of the most important ceremonies in a person’s life, as it ushers them into the next world safely and with blessings. There is a large funeral procession, accompanied by music and followed by a cremation with holy fire. This is meant to cleanse them as they pass onto their next life. This expensive ceremony is often undertaken communally to spread the costs, and the dead of the village are sent into their afterlife together. 

FAQ for Ceremonies in a Balinese Person’s Life

What is the significance of ceremonies in Balinese culture?

Ceremonies in Balinese culture are deeply rooted in spiritual practices and traditions. They mark significant milestones in a person’s life and serve as occasions for the community to come together and celebrate.

What is the “Turun Tanah” ceremony?

“Turun Tanah” is the name-giving ceremony for a child, marking their first holistic contact with religion. During this event, they are blessed by the holy trinity of Gods – Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva.

Why aren’t Balinese babies allowed to touch the ground for the first three months of their lives?

Balinese babies are believed to be spiritually tethered to the heavens during their first three months. They are considered anchored to the spiritual world, and only after 105 days do they have a ceremony, “Nyabutin,” to touch the Earth for the first time.

What happens during the “Mepandes” ceremony?

“Mepandes” is a tooth-filing ceremony that marks the transition of a Balinese individual from adolescence to adulthood. A traditional dentist, or “sangging,” files the canines of the person to symbolically remove their wild and untamable aspects.

How does a Balinese wedding differ from other wedding ceremonies?

A Balinese wedding, known as “Pawiwahan,” is not just a union of two people but signifies the merging of the spiritual and material world. It also marks the couple’s recognition as full citizens of their villages or “banjars.”

Is the “Ngaben” ceremony exclusive to the Balinese culture?

While the concept of honoring the deceased is prevalent worldwide, the “Ngaben” ceremony, with its unique rituals, music, and communal cremation process, is specific to Balinese culture.

How do families afford the “Ngaben” funeral ceremony given its expenses?

Due to the high costs associated with the “Ngaben” ceremony, it’s often undertaken communally. Multiple families in the village come together to send their deceased loved ones into the afterlife simultaneously, sharing the expenses.

Can tourists or non-Balinese people attend these ceremonies?

While some ceremonies are private and reserved for close family and friends, many Balinese people are open to outsiders observing their traditions, provided they approach with respect and follow any given guidelines.

What should one wear when attending a Balinese ceremony?

Visitors should dress modestly, covering their shoulders and knees. It’s customary to wear a sarong, and sometimes a sash, especially when entering temples or attending religious ceremonies.

Where can I learn more about Balinese ceremonies and traditions?

Visiting local cultural centers, temples, or participating in community-based tours in Bali can provide deeper insights into Balinese ceremonies and traditions. Reading books or articles on Balinese culture or engaging with local guides can also be enlightening.

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