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Home » People & Community, Religion

An Exciting Journey to a New Life  

by on Saturday, 21 November 2009No Comment | 3,638 views

marilyn_journeyMany westerners have become Balinese through the Suddhi Wadani ceremony and the Manusa Yadnya (ceremony for human) ceremony. Suddhi Wadhani ceremony can be paralleled with taking a vow ceremony. In this ceremony someone make a vow to become a Hindu follower, but in order to become a Balinese another series of ceremony have to be performed. To be a Balinese someone has to be “reborn” in Balinese way. A Balinese is given various ceremony since he/she in the womb of his/her mother until he/she pass away, even long after he/she passed away a ceremony is held for him/her.

The series of ceremony is begun with the magedong-gedongan housing of the soul) ceremony on the seventh month of pregnancy. Next ceremony is birth ceremony; it is celebrated by welcome to the world ceremony (penyambutan). Next ceremony is ceremony of seven day for the fall of the umbilical cord (kepus pungsed), followed by the ceremony of the twelfth day, the forty-two day ceremony and the third month ceremony. Upon this third month ceremony, the child is allowed to touch the ground and given a name. After these ceremonies, there will be an otonan ceremony (Balinese birthday ceremony).

Tooth filling ceremony is held after the otonan ceremony, the purpose of this ceremony is to control the desire. Balinese demonic characters are always represented with big canine teeth. By filing them, someone symbolizes the victory over his/her six “intimate enemies” (kama -lust, lobha – greed, krodha – anger, mada – intoxication, moha – confusion and matsarya – jealously). After the tooth filling ceremony, marriage ceremony is the last ceremony to be held to complete the circle of Manusa Yadnya (ceremonies for human). The Manusa Yadnya (ceremonies for human) in Bali is varied; a ceremony in a village may be different with the next.

A descriptive account on the inauguration to be a Balinese by an ex-expatriate (now a Balinese) will gives a different point of view on this matter. Marilyn Carson (now Ni Luh Wati) held her series of Manusa Yadnya (ceremonies for human) on 12/2/05.

This is her story: Let me tell you about the ceremony and my western birthday party. ONLY IN BALI!!

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Since I returned to Bali it has been non-stop activity. All the effort leading up to the ceremony was exciting but maddening as I could be of very little real help… just a happy cheerleader as the work progressed around me. I was told to not leave the house the day before the ceremony as I was to rest and focus on the next day. HA! Try resting and relaxing with fifteen people building and decorating the special bale structures that were placed on the side of the house; trucks of offerings arriving along with perhaps 40 women from my village carrying them in and placing them in the bales; the decorating people erecting two big awning type structures, one in front of the entrance to my house and a second in the driveway; special HUGE offerings being hauled in by two strong men, straining under their weight. The place was a bee hive of activity the entire day. The work continued until late into the evening, so I didn’t even get to bed early!

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The day of the ceremony, Ibu Agung was at the house by 8:00 a.m. to do my hair and wrap me up in my first set of clothing. I let Catur, my front office manager at the hotel, select my kebaya (traditional cloth) because she always complains that I do not select ‘good’ ones and so mine was bright pink and cost me a lot! But she was happy so I was happy.

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Cok Ira, Ibu Agung’s daughter-in-law, gave me a gift of a special sarong to wear for all the baby ceremonies. It is called a songket and it was gorgeous. I had never worn one before and would never have figured out how to get it properly wrapped without Ibu Agung. By 10 a.m. the entire family from the Ubud Palace had arrived and the ceremonies began…first my 12 day baby ceremony where I was given my Balinese name…Ni Luh Wati.

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Ni means female, Luh means #1 (like Wayan or Putu) and Wati means woman. So I must be the number one woman! Then we went on to the 42 day baby ceremony, the three month baby ceremony and, under darkening skies, did the six month ceremony in a downpour! Everyone was soaking wet the end all the ladies from my village were wearing plastic bags on their heads as their only form of protection. The priest who conducted this ceremony was under an umbrella held by a second priest and they stuffed me under an overhang of the bale where I would do my tooth filing.

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All the colors on my songket ran all over the place including, I discovered later, on to my body, my bra and my underpants. Everyone was smiling and laughing because rain is a blessing from God during ceremony and this was one big blessing! We then continued under unabated rain and completed the ceremony for my current Balinese birthday which was on December we. There was no discussion about taking a break. As for me, I was having such a good time that I didn’t want to stop and besides, I couldn’t get any wetter!

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All during these ceremonies, the lady’s gamelan from my village were playing away, rain or not, two people were reading from old Sanskrit books, a dalang was doing shadow puppetry with two accompanying gender gamelans, ladies from my village were chanting and singing and all of this was being broadcast over a sound system supplied by Cok Wah. I’m sure it could be heard three villages away!

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The next ceremony was toothfiling and under normal circumstances, I would have moved on to my second change of clothes, but after a brief pow wow, we (she) decided to just keep going. And at that point, what we had thought to be a BIG rain, turned into a HUGE rain accompanied by a howling wind and huge roars of thunder. The family and many of my staff hovered under the roof of the tooth filing bale protecting themselves and me from the wind and rain with umbrellas, and the priest, proceeded with tooth filing. I was handed a tray of flowers but we didn’t realize it was filled not only with flowers but also rainwater, so it all spilled out onto the mattress and mat creating a small pond in which I sat while my songket ran even more colors.


Throughout, I was laughing and enjoying every second. Much of the water was mopped up in time for me to lie down for the actual tooth filing and Ibu Agung, Cok Wah, Cok Alit, Cok Oka, Bridget and as many of my staff that were not off collecting the high priest, all placed their hands on me while my teeth were filed. This is done for protection as it is believed you are especially vulnerable to black magic during tooth filing. (Ibu Agung had someone with special powers with me from early in the morning to the end of the day to ‘guard me’.) It was a delightful, heartwarming and loving experience, but I think quite unorthodox as I suspect I was supposed to be very serious, but couldn’t help enjoying it as the circumstances were so very funny. And just as the tooth filing was completed, the rain and wind and thunder suddenly stopped and the sky brightened. It was a very auspicious happening and everyone commented that this was a very special blessing for me.

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With tooth filing completed, I was able to return to the house where the rest of the palace family had stayed and watched through the windows, high and dry! I dripped my way through the house saying hello to people and thanking them for coming and then was taken into the bedroom and stripped down. That’s when I discovered everything was multicolored from the running songket. In the meantime the palace family were served lunch (it was already almost 2 p.m. and then each stuck their head into my bedroom while I was being redone to say good by and left.

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Ibu Agung’s hairdresser and make up lady turned me into an entirely different person and I was dressed in traditional Balinese ceremonial garb and ended up looking like a well wrapped gift package. However, I discovered I couldn’t walk as it was all so tight and in spite of Ibu Agung’s coaching, never quite figured out how to ambulate except with teeny tiny steps or by pulling the entire lower part of the costume up. If I stood still, I looked pretty good, but if I wanted to get around, it left everyone laughing.

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At 4:00 p.m., those invited to the reception started to arrive as did the high priest to conduct the final ceremony. I just love this high priest and enjoy so much doing ceremony with him. He was the priest who came to my house when it was being built and decided where the temples would be placed so I feel he is an old friend. And I go to him for all my Balinese birthdays, so it felt so right that he should be doing this last and very important ceremony for me. The lady’s gamelan returned in a new set of dry clothes and continued providing wonderful gamelan music throughout.

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Finally, all the ceremonial activities were finished and I could actually spend time with people. This second wave of guests were all local friends from Rotary and Bali Hati and the staff from Saraswati and on and on. In all, we had close to 300 people come during the day. We went through 250 box meals and two full buffet meals, lunch and dinner! As things started to wind down at about 7:00 the photographer took a ton of family pictures. (The photographer was a gift from my darling friend Made Sumantra.) By 8:00 the last of my friends and dear family left and it was just Bridget and me and my pooped out staff. I was not the least tired and could have done it all over again!

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For three days after the ceremony I was not to leave the house, but my staff was so exhausted from the preparations and ongoing clean up that on Sunday night I decided to take Bridget into town for dinner so nobody would have to cook. Wayan Bayu was sick and Wayan, was coming down with what turned into a gigantic cold, so I sent them off to the doctor. I just didn’t have the heart to expect my Kadek Bangli to cook, so I though I would sneak Bridget and I into Ubud for dinner. We went in late, thinking no one would even notice us, but of course, the first person I see is Cok Wah! Groan.

We scheduled the small ceremony that needed to be done to truly allow me to leave the house early Monday a.m. as then I could visit my village chief whose father had passed away the day after my ceremony and on to another special ceremony for an old friend who had died a week earlier. I was also trying to settle up my bills with the village. I paid for all the materials required for the offerings and the village prepared them. It was days of work. My village also built the bales, butchered and cooked three suckling pigs and prepared and delivered a gillion sticks of satay because the royal caste, the Cokorda, must receive ‘invitation by satay’. Even the sticks for the satay must be specially measured and carved. And because there were so many palace guests, it took a ton of drivers driving around the area to get them all delivered. People who came to the reception received invitation by actual invitation. I made up extra invitations so I could bring them back to the states with me in the spring.

Then it was already Tuesday and I thought everything would be reasonably quiet but no! Bridget and I were going to make a small birthday party for me on December 8 since she was leaving on my real birthday date, but Catur got wind of our plan and it turned into a blowout with over a hundred people. Back came the sound system but this time for a keyboard…no gamelan. Cok Wah sent 200 candles to put around the pool, the steps, and everywhere else you might imagine, and because everyone’s children were coming, we strung up 100 balloons! Cok Oka, Ibu Agung’s daughter again catered for me with box meals, satay, a wonderful soup, and BBQ-ed tuna steaks compliments of Cok Wah and his buddies who managed to go through close to five cases of beer.

It will take a week to get my house back in shape and a year to remove all the wax from those candles! But it was a fabulous party and, as we lit the candles on the cake, the rain AGAIN poured down…yet another blessing! A second blessing was that I had all the children from the palace families and the staff families and the hotel families to help me blow out candles on three separate cakes. Lots of people sent beautiful bouquets of flowers, which the kids decimated by removing the flowers and placing them in their hair or in plastic bags to take home.

On Friday, I was death warmed over. But I had to make all the last minute preparations for a Saturday delivery of Rotary materials to our first elementary school and then a school committee meeting and then off to the airport with Bridget. And to further compound a way too full Saturday Ibu Agung’s husband, the ‘king’ was taken to the hospital. I never would have dreamed I should join the royals at the hospital, but a phone call from Ibu Agung alerted me that I was expected, so after taking Bridget to the airport it was off the hospital. Here was Cokorda Ajik recovering from what I suspect was a bad case of food poisoning (Cok Wah said he had been eating satay kambing, satay made from goat meat, and I think that was the source of the problem) and it was like a parade of people going through. Thank heavens he returns home tomorrow morning where he can actually recuperate.

So there’s the last couple of weeks in a nutshell. As Ibu Agung kept saying, ‘Only one time’. And although I would love to do another big ceremony the only way for me is to have a wedding and that’s out of the question.

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