Dozens of fancy cars, a grand mansion or two with millions of dollar in your bank account just dust in your mouth when you do not have any cattle, in Botswana how wealthy you are is determine by the number of cattle you have, of course the wealthiest person owns more cattle than everyone else. In Sumba, the horses do the talk while in Bali it is the children.
Of course, the number of the children does not have anything to do with how wealthy a person is. Two children is excellent especially when there is a son or two, three children are fine but for the fourth one you have to take your financial capability into consideration. So why a child is considered a great wealth in Bali?
In this case, first let us hear what a Balinese who does not have any children use to say: “When I meet my friends the first think they ask is not ‘how many car or how many house do you have?’ but ‘how many child do you have?’ or ‘how is your child’ or ‘how is your child?’, so what the use of having so many cars or houses”.
A standard greeting for Balinese when meeting someone beside “where do you go?” is enquiring everything in relation with the children. For Balinese, it is considered unfortunate for a married couple not to have any child.
Why is a child so important for Balinese?
For Balinese children, especially (or may be preferably) a son, are the ones who will take over all religious and social responsibilities of their parents as soon as they get married. They are the one who will hold cremation ceremony for their parent corpses and deification ceremony for their parent souls. It is also believed that the spirit of the ancestors whose descendents do not have any child will be tortured in hell and only with a birth of a child or grandchild, their spirit is admitted to enter the heaven.
Here is a folktale that described the role of children in rescuing the spirits of their ancestors from hell.
A holy Brahmin named Jaratkaru had been practiced yoga for hundreds of years, he remained un-married as a part of his yoga practice. As a result of this long ascetism he had a power to roam freely into heaven or hell.
One day he came on his wandering to hell (Tamariloka), and saw many souls of sinful undergoing penance; amongst others a rishi (hermit) hanging head downwards over a precipice by a creeper which mice are gnawing. Jaratkaru was moved by his lamentations and offered to share his spiritual power with him. It turned out that the hermit was his own father, and can only be saved if his son Jaratkaru will stop mortifying the flesh and take a wife. Jaratkaru promised to marry if he can find a wife of the same name as himself whom he need not support.
Meanwhile, the great dragon Basuki had eavesdropped the conversation between Siva and Vishnu that foresaw the annihilation of the dragon race and only a son which borne from a female dragon and a Brahmin named Jaratkaru could save the dragon race.
Jaratkaru searched high and low for a woman of the same name as himself but in vain, until the great dragon Basuki heard his lament and asked what on earth was disturb the Brahmin. Jaratkaru told his story and Basuki immediately offered his sister, whose name he changed to Jaratkaru. Jaratkaru warned her that he will leave her if ever she crosses him by word or deed.
They finally married and she became pregnant, but once he had fallen asleep in her arms towards sunset, she waked him so that he might not miss his evening prayers. She had broken the pact, and he left her. Later, a child was borne named Astika. And the hermit is thereby released from hell moreover the dragon race now had a savior from the terrible fate.