Ceremonies for Individuals:
Birth – soon after the birth of a child, the afterbirth is buried with prayers and offerings. A baby is not allowed to touch the ground for the first 6 months; when this period is up there’s a special ceremony to mark the occasion.
Naming – For the largest Balinese Hindu caste (around 90% of the island’s population), children are named according to the sequence they’re born in the family. The first child is called Putu or Wayan, the second-born is Kadek or Made, the third is Komang or Nyoman, and the fourth is Ketut. The fifth child goes back to the first name and the process begins again. These names apply regardless of the sex of the child.
Tooth Filing – practised in Bali for over 2000 years, this ceremony marks the transition from adolescence to adulthood. Using a simple file, hammer and holy water, a priest gently files the canine teeth to remove any sharpness. Pointed teeth are associated with evil spirits, witches or animals. The Balinese believe the filing eradicates any base tendencies such as gluttony, anger, lust or jealousy, and marks the adolescent’s rite of passage to maturity. Tooth filings are most common in July and August.
Weddings – It’s still the tradition in Bali to marry young, and is extremely rare for anyone to remain unmarried. Marriage is seen as the way to respect the gods, ancestors, family and community, though an arranged marriage is extremely rare, and the caste system no longer plays the part it once did.
At the ceremony the bride and groom wear traditional dress and highly stylised make-up, and a feast is served for guests. The bride then moves in with the husband’s family and the couple is encouraged to produce four children, preferably sons.
Cremation – In Bali, the dead are cremated rather than buried, though the cremation must take place on an auspicious date and the body is often temporarily buried until that time comes. The cremation ceremony is the most important ceremony for the Balinese, marking the departure of the soul from this life and its embarking on a great journey before taking re-birth once again, hopefully in favourable circumstances.
Members of the royal family are cremated in a particularly spectacular way – the body is placed inside a splendid hand-built sarcophagus in the shape of a bull.
Ceremonies for Community:
Nyepi – Nyepi, which takes place in early March, is the Balinese New Year, and a truly unique occasion because it is a day of total silence across the island. Even the airport is closed.
The night before Nyepi, there is a parade of “ogoh-ogohs”, large monsters made from paper mache by the villagers, which are paraded through the streets and later burned to symbolise a cleansing of negative energies.
On the day of Nyepi itself, the whole island of Bali closes down. There is no sound, and black cloth is pulled across the windows. Nobody is allowed to work or to go outside, tourists include. No electricity or open flames should be used, and no noise is permitted. The idea is that the evil spirits, roused the night before, are duped into think that nobody inhabits the island and decide to go away. Nyepi should be devoted to contemplation.
Galungan – Galungan is a major festival in Bali that occurs every 210 days. The ancestors are believed to return to the family temple, and they are welcomed and entertained with colourful decorations, offerings, rituals and prayers.
Kuningan – Kuningan takes place 10 days after Galungan and signifies the ancestors’ return to heaven, and the triumph of good over evil. Most Kuningan celebrations take place within the family compound. Special offerings are made with yellow rice, cooked with turmeric.
Saraswati Day – This is a holy day to make prayers to Saraswati, goddess of science, learning and the arts. Books are covered with offerings. This day is celebrated in schools and educational institutions in particular.