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Rites of Passage

The Balinese believe that the individual soul is reincarnated in to many lifetimes, until through numerous struggles and stages it achieves union with the divine.  It is the duty of all Balinese people to have children, to provide a vessel for his ancestor’s spirits to be reincarnated into.  A man does not become a full members of his Banjar until he is a father. Children are loved and looked after with great care, especially male children, as they carry the blood line of the family and also look after the burial and cremation of their parents.

As each lifetime is regarded as a passage from one stage to another, so also there are critical stages during life where an important passage occurs leading toward adulthood. It is the duty of the family and friends to help each child through these passages.  The rites of passage begin while the baby is still in the womb.  A pregnant woman is “sable” (unclean), and is not permitted to enter a temple.  After a safe delivery, the after birth becomes the “Kanda Empat”; it finds a spiritual brother in each of the four cardinal directions to accompany the child throughout his life.  There are further rites for the child at 12 days, 42 days and again at 105 days when the child is, for the first time, placed onto the ground.  Ibu Pertiwi (mother earth) is asked to look after the young offering. Before this ceremony the child is hardy regarded as a human being.  At 210 days, the child is given its name.  A Balinese child is never allowed to crawl, as this is regarded as animalistic.  He or She  is carried everywhere until he learns to stand and walk.

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The passage into puberty is celebrated for both males and females.  Puberty of children is celebrated and then the rite of tooth filling follows for both the girls and boys.  This ceremony must be carried out before marriage: often it is incorporated into the marriage ceremony.  The canine teeth, which the Balinese regard as animalistic fangs, are filed flat.  This represents the moving out of the more extreme aspects of one’s personality as one enters adulthood.  After the tooth filling a father’s duties to his female children are generally regarded as being completed. Today the act of tooth filling is often more symbolic with the teeth only getting one pass of the file instead of being filed flat.

For a son, the father must finance and conduct the marriage ceremony, welcoming the bride as a new daughter into the family.  The new bride leaves her old ties behind and takes over her new family's ancestor’s and their spirits.  Many Balinese marriages are prearranged, through young men increasingly prefer to choose elopement instead and mixed cast marriages are more common now.

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