The Balinese rites of passage ceremonies are the most important rituals in the process of achieving worldly perfection. Each Balinese must undergo all the rituals of manusa yadnya, and these begin even before birth. The timing and location of each ritual is decided using the Balinese lunar calendar in order to achieve the best results and take place after transitional periods in the child’s development.
This blessing ritual is held when the baby is still in the mother’s womb and the pregnancy is 210 days, or seven months old. Timing of this ceremony is according to the calendar so sometimes it is not held precisely on 210th day, and then a village priest must be consulted to determine the most appropriate day. The ceremony is led by a priest in the family temple, with special prayers and offerings for the baby’s purification, along with the parents.
The birth of a Balinese child is always a very happy day. Immediately after the child is born the father takes the placenta (afterbirth), washes it, and buries it in the front yard of the family’s house. In other parts of Bali the burial place may differ depending on local lore. A week after that, or the day the baby’s umbilical cord falls off another ritual takes place called Kepus Puser, at the baby’s cot. The next ceremony, Ngelepas Hawon is held on the 12th day when the baby is named, and this is conducted by the eldest members of the family in the bathroom, kitchen and then finally in the family temple.
The next sequence of purification ceremonies follows 42 days after birth, called kambuhan, and at 105 days, telu bulan (three months). A more significant ceremony will take place 210 days, or 6 months after birth called otonan, and this is more like a birthday that is routinely held every 6 months. This ceremony is symbolic of the child joining the human race, while prior to the otonan the baby is considered to be not fully human. To symbolize the baby’s passing to humanity, the child’s feet will be permitted to touch the ground for the first time, and the child will be released from a fighting rooster’s cage. The otonan is also marked by the first cutting of the baby’s hair.
There are also rituals concerning the baby’s teeth. Upon signs of their first tooth the family prepares a simple ceremony called Ngempugin, normally done during sunrise. When their first tooth falls off the Mekupak ceremony is conducted. These rituals are sometime held together with otonan ceremony if the family is too busy with other activities.
This period of time marks leaving childhood and the beginning of taking on more adult responsibilities for Balinese children. During late adolescence Balinese boys and girls must have their canine teeth filed down in a ritual known as mapandes. The act of filing symbolizes the casting out of the Sad Ripu, the “six evil animal passions” inherent in all of us: anger, pride, vanity, desire, jealousy and greed. This ritual is an occasion for great pomp and pageantry; the initiate wears fine clothes, and a priest leads and oversees the ritual filing by the ritual dentist (sangging). Any youth who has undergone mapandes is considered an adult by their community, and can be trusted to make decisions for the common good. If anyone hasn’t undergone this ritual, the family will do it during the cremation or death rituals.
Marriage – Balinese Wedding
One of the most important rituals, and of course the day to remember, is the wedding day. A wedding is very special time for the Balinese community, and the nuptials (called nganten) involve the whole village, along with the ancestor spirits. After the parents of the bride give their permission (memadik), the village heads will be consulted for their opinion and approval (ngunduh).
The bride then will ask formal permission to wed from her family, the gods, and the spirits of her ancestors (mapamit). The bride receives a formal welcome into the bridegroom’s community (masakapan), and then the proper sacrifices need to be made at several temples (ngaba jaja). Some villages require an additional sacrifice at the village temple (klaci). These days, a formal, elaborate wedding reception usually takes place
between ngunduh and masakapan, and again, in some places in Bali, villagers prefer to do much simpler ceremonies. Those who have money, however, often undergo a much more complicated sequence of ceremonies.