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Bali Travel Guidebook:
Wedding (Pawiwahan) & Tooth Filing (Masangih)

Background on Bali
Activities & Tours
Climate & Clothing
Balinese Culture
   Naming System
   Ceremonies for        Children
   Wedding &
       Tooth Filing
   Royal Odalan &
       Tooth Filing
   Royal Cremation
   Special Days



To help you to understand a little more about these two important "Upacara Manusa Yadnya" (life cycle ritual ceremonies) for the Hindu-Balinese, I have written about one particular family in our village that has recently held these ceremonies. The accompanying photos may be enlarged for better viewing by clicking on the image.

On the morning of Monday, 2nd October 2000, Krishna & I set off from KLUB KOKOS in our traditional Balinese clothing to the village of Bangkiang Sidem ˝ km to the north to attend the wedding of one of our local personalities, I Madé Sudarsana - second son of one of our long-term builders - to a girl from Padang Tegal, Ni Ketut Sinar Aryanti. Some of you who have stayed with us at KLUB KOKOS may have met Madé already, either by visiting his small art shop across the road from KLUB KOKOS, or through participation in some of the workshops we offer our guests to become involved in that he assists with - painting, kite making or learning how to play the tingklik (bamboo xylophone). About two months ago, soon after his older brother finally celebrated a traditional wedding ceremony at their home at the southern end of Bangkiang Sidem, Madé decided to follow suit with the girl he had been going with for so long. At that time a small ceremony was held to ask permission of the girl's family for her to be taken into Madé's family as his new wife, but it was decided that the full traditional wedding ceremony should be postponed for a little while, to give the family the chance to work on preparing a more elaborate ceremony than they could afford at that time, also taking this opportunity for Pak Lastra's three children to join in a tooth filing ceremony held on the same day.

    For the most part of the month of September we didn't see Pak Lastra at work here with the rest of the gang building the gallery at KLUB KOKOS, as he was busily helping to organize all of the requirements for these two ceremonies to be held. By late September many of his friends & neighbours were also spending days at his home to help erect the numerous temporary structures required for the day, as well as the many intricate offerings that were required. By the end of September everything was in readiness, & on 1st October written invitations were given out for friends & neighbours - mainly of the younger generation - to come to their home for a reception party with the bridal couple in a more relaxed atmosphere, seeing as at the ceremony on the next day they would have very little chance to socialize with their friends as they were involved in the ceremony. Extended family & close neighbours were already involved full-time in catering to all the visitors, providing food & drink for all who came to give their blessing to the couple.
Extended family & neighbours help to distribute food 'invitations'   By about 4 o'clock the next morning, after a few hours sleep, all the family & neighbours were up again gathering at Pak Lastra's home to prepare the food required to be a part of the offerings for the ceremony, as well as about 150 food platter 'invitations' that were sent out by mid-morning as the traditional form of notification for people to attend the wedding ceremony. While the men were busy slaughtering three pigs for the occasion, making saté (finely minced meat on a skewer) & lawar (Balinese vegetable dishes), as well as the famous babi guling (sucking pig), the women were cooking the rice & cakes, & making last minute preparations with all of the offerings. Although we already knew about the ceremony to be held some weeks before the event, this official invitation is only delivered an hour or so before the ceremony is about to begin.
Welcoming committee   On our arrival at the home of Pak Lastra a welcoming committee greeted us as we entered the house compound, where wedding gifts are received & a guest book may be filled out. Because of the involvement of the wedding couple in the ceremony, it's possible that they may not have the chance to see all of their guests on the day, so this is a valuable record for them in the future to see who actually came on the day.
Guests are greeted with food & drinks


  As we took a seat on the verandah of the building where the wedding couple was preparing to dress for the ceremony, drinks of sweet hot tea & coffee, with an assortment of Balinese cakes, were served to us by some of the members of the family to welcome our arrival. We then heard that the wedding ceremony that was originally planned to commence at around 10 a.m. had been delayed for a couple of hours due to the fact that the pemangku (village priest) who was to officiate at the ceremony was still involved in another ceremony, & would be late arriving. This is a very normal occurrence in Balinese life, where time plays second fiddle to so many other things. Ceremonies set for a certain time may be either running early or late, depending on the availability of the pemangku or, if attending, a pedanda (high priest), or on the readiness of all the offerings required. So, in the meantime all the guests & family had time to relax & socialize with each other.
Family & friends await the beginning of the ceremony
Traditional wedding cake & sesajen   Babi guling offeringIn the meantime last minute checks were made on the offerings that were required. Here pictured is the traditional style of Balinese wedding cake accompanied by sesajen (towering offerings to God) & the offering of a suckling pig. All of these offerings will be later dismantled once their essence is given to God for His blessings upon the ceremony, & divided amongst the many family members & neighbours that had helped so much.
Women helping in the kitchen   Here are just a few of the women that had spent many hours helping in the small open kitchen at Pak Lastra's home, making sure each of the guests at the wedding were catered for on arrival.
Donna grabs a bite to eat   As well as all the men & women of Pak Lastra's family & neighbours attending, their children are also a very welcome part of the festive atmosphere of the occasion. Here little Donna grabs a bite to eat as her mum is serving some of the other guests.
Kids gather with their uncles   As with any other important religious ceremony for the extended family, all the children have a day off from school to attend. Here a group of them gather with two of their uncles, who have been working hard for many hours & are now taking a breather.
Pak Tama & Pak Lastra with offerings makers   One of the pemangku from Bangkiang Sidem (in white), Pak Tama, gathers with the father of the groom, Pak Lastra, and a few of the women who have been in charge of preparing most of the elaborate offerings for the day.
Gusti Kompiang arrives   Finally the pemangku that is to perform the Pawiwahan (wedding ceremony) arrives - he is Gusti Kompiang, the father of Gusti Aji (our head builder & masseur). Before the ceremony commences he takes time to relax with a drink & talk to Pak Lastra & some of the guests.
Cleansing ritual before the wedding ceremony   Then it is time to begin the traditional wedding ceremony. The bride & groom appear before the pemangku to hold a cleansing ritual & prayers to God that all may proceed successfully. Women of the family aid the pemangku & the wedding couple in their prayers.
Prayers for the wedding couple   Together with other members of the family further prayers are made by the pemangku to God to ask His blessing upon the union of the couple.
Circling the compound three times   Then a symbolic enactment of married life is carried out under the guidance of the pemangku, with the immediate family making sure that the couple carries out everything properly. Here the couple circles the family compound three times, the bride carrying a basket containing cooked rice & saté, as well as various kitchen tools, herbs, spices & cloth, while the groom carries a young sprouting coconut to symbolise the new life that they are about to enter, strapped to a branch of the dadap tree, the most sacred of trees in Bali. He also carries in his right hand a sapu lidi (straw broom) to symbolically cleanse his wife of any bad spirits that may be bothering her, with kepeng (Chinese coins with a hole in the middle, used for traditional ceremonies), tucked away in his sarong (cloth). The groom is expected to tap the behind of his new wife with the broom as they circle around, while they also stop at some point in the circle for the bride to 'shop' at the 'market' for goods, perched on a coconut that has been scooped out & a duck's egg placed inside it. This coconut, later to be placed under the bridal bed, is to ensure the fertility of the woman to be able to give birth to healthy children. After circling the compound three times a string connecting two branches of the dadap tree is severed by the couple passing through it. Perhaps this is to signify the rebirth of the couple, just as the umbilical cord is cut between the baby & mother at birth. The bride then feeds her new husband with a token amount of rice that he pays her for with the kepeng that he has. Then the final act of the husband piercing the woven matting held by the wife with his kris (small dagger) is greeted by giggling by some of the onlookers, as this symbolises the 'deflowering' of the woman in her new marriage. Sexual connotations / innuendoes are evident in much of Balinese ceremonies & everyday actions, as 'sex' is not a taboo topic as in much of society in neighbouring Java. This is one of the main reasons why the family planning program operating in Bali has been so successful over the past decade or so.
Symbolic market shopping
Wife offers food to her husband
Mat pierced by the kris
Cleansing ritual before the tooth filing ceremony   Once the wedding ceremony is over, the Masangih (tooth filing ceremony) can commence. As well as Pak Lastra's two sons & daughter, a cousin of theirs - the eldest son of Pak Bui, another one of our building crew - was involved in the ceremony as well, as it is considered unlucky for three people to have their teeth filed at one time.
Komang   Pak Lastra's daughter is one of the students we are organizing sponsorship for to continue with her schooling. At about 15 years old, she is currently in her third year of Junior High, & is still rather young to have her teeth filed. However, so that she can have the ceremony done along with her brothers, she's ready to join in with the other three, who are already in their 20s.
    The Hindu-Balinese people carry out a tooth filing ceremony to rid themselves of their Sad Ripu (six weaknesses of the flesh), namely, Lust, Greed, Anger, Drunkenness, Confusion & Jealousy. Once they have been able to have this ceremony performed it is hoped that they may be better able to lead a healthy, well-adjusted life as a valuable member of their close-knit community.
Sprinkled with holy water   After the cleansing ritual, the group of people to have the tooth filing ceremony move to the family temple in the northeastern corner of the house compound to offer up prayers to God & to their ancestors to seek their blessings upon the ceremony. Many other members of the family join them in prayer, while the village pemangku guides them, sprinkling holy water over the congregation. In the meantime the pedanda (high priest) & his assistant wait patiently in the background, as they are the ones who are required to perform this very important ritual once the prayers have been done.
Prayers to God & ancesters
Prayers before the high priest   Then it is time for the group of four to move back to the family balé dangin (open pavilion) that is used for these life cycle ceremonies, from when they were babies until when they die. Further prayers are made in front of the pedanda before the tooth filing ceremony commences.
Made & his brother Wayan having their teeth filed   After a ritual filing has been carried out by the pedanda on each of the participants, the serious work of leveling the teeth commences. The parents & other family members of those having their teeth filed hold onto them to give them moral support in the ordeal that they are going through. Going two at a time, after a certain amount of filing they are given a breather to wash out their mouth & check on whether enough filing has been done yet. Here Madé, the groom, checks in a mirror to see whether his teeth look level enough yet. The Hindu-Balinese believe that uneven teeth (longer canines) is a sign of being like an animal - they believe that animals are the lowest of God's creations - & so even if they have not been able to afford a tooth filing ceremony at some stage during their adult life, they will have them filed after death before their cremation. Once Madé & his older brother Wayan are satisfied with their teeth, then the other two are ready to go through the filing. In the meantime they had been waiting anxiously at the side of the balé for their turn to arrive. Once again other members of their family physically share with them as they go through the filing - touching being a very important part of the way people interact here. While the ceremony is carried out guests, neighbours & other more distant family continue to sit around on the various verandah areas of the family compound.
Inspecting the results
Komang & her cousin Wayan having their teeth filed
Family & friends waiting during the ceremony
Bride reappears   Once the tooth filing ceremony has been completed, a final ceremony involving all of the day's participants is held. Now dressed in her finest, the bride now reappears after waiting patiently for the last couple of hours in their bedroom, along with the other four people, now also dressed in their best regalia to be blessed by the pedanda.
Receiving the high priest's blessings   The bride & groom are now in the traditional dress that people associate with wedding ceremonies in Bali. They are flanked by Madé's older brother Wayan, their cousin, also a Wayan, & Madé's younger sister, Komang. The pedanda has since changed from his white suit used while he is performing the tooth filing ceremony, & has now donned a cloth that is wound round his body.
High priest in prayer   While performing such ceremonies, a pedanda is considered a holy person so closely in contact with God, & as such it is considered sacrilegious to put yourself at a higher level than he is. While he sits in prayer on the platform of the balé, the bride & groom & the others that have had their teeth filed sit on chairs below him, awaiting the blessings that he is about to bestow upon them.
Friends playing 'sepirit'   While the ceremony is about to conclude with the pedanda, some of Madé's friends have started a game of sepirit (a kind of dominoes card game) to entertain themselves while they await the bride & groom.
Bride & Groom  

Once the ceremony is over, & the pedanda has been escorted back to his Griya (home for a person of the priestly caste), the bride & groom are then able to relax for a few photos in their fine regalia. Then they are escorted to the bride's home in Padang Tegal - a suburb of Ubud - for further prayers to be carried out in her family temple, letting her ancestors know that she has now officially become a part of her husband's family. Madé's family are then entertained by the bride's family after the prayers are over. However, by this stage we, along with other invited guests to the home of Pak Lastra, return home as the sun is about to set over the rice fields.

[next - Royal Odalan & Tooth Filing Ceremony]

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Thispage was last updated on July 29, 2002