• Royal Cremation Ubud

  • Taking offerings to the temple

  • Temple ceremony preparations

  • Offerings at Tirta Empul

The Life Ceremonies of every Balinese

Bali Ceremonies are an addition to festivals that are held based on the Hindu Saka calender and the complicated Pawukon Calender. While national holidays, Nyepi day and temple ceremonies are of great importance , each individual life on Bali must undergo several important ceremonies in order to enter, live and leave this world. The first ceremony is held even before the child is born while the last takes place when the aches of the deceased are scattered into sea.

All these ceremony are aimed at one purpose: protection by gods and protection from evil.

The most important Bali life-cycle ceremonies and rituals are

From pre-birth till loosing one's milk teeth

The first ceremony of a Balinese takes place before he or she is even born. On the 6th month of the pregnancy a ceremony with offerings is conducted (pegedong-pegedong) to ensure the well being and health of the baby. Once the baby is born the afterbirth is to be placed in a coconut which is wrapped in a white cloth and finally buried near the entrance of the parent's household.

For a short period of time appropriate ceremonies are conducted regularly on this spot. Between the 12th and 42nd day of the child's birth the mother and baby are considered unclean. Therefore a series of ceremonies take place in which both are purified in order to participate in festivals and religious events. During this time the god Sanghyang Pance Kumara is also asked to watch over the child and to protect it.

The 105th day is one of the important days for the child as only then will it be given a name. Also during this ceremony (Telubulan) the baby is fully welcomed into the family. On the first birthday (Oton), which is according to the Balinese calendar on the 210th day, the baby is allowed to touch the ground for the first time. Because the ground is considered impure, the baby has always been carried around up to this day. This day is again accompanied with a ceremony which is pretty big and takes place at the ancestral temple where families and the community gather to celebrate.

The next ceremony in life takes place as soon as the child looses his/her milk teeth (Maketus). During this ceremony the responsibilities of Sanghyang Pance Kumara, the God who has protected the child since birth are withdrawn. From then on the responsibilities rest on the families' ancestors.

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Tooth filling and Marriage

The festivals and life-cycle ceremonies stop for a while, until a Balinese boy or girl reaches the age of adolescence.

In this period of life the important and painful tooth-filling ceremony (Mapandes) takes place, preferable before marriage. By filing away the sharp points of the canine teeth the Balinese believe that human behavior such as lust, greed, anger, drunkenness, jealousy etc. is removed from that specific person.


balinese smile ubud village
If you see a smile like this, you can't resist to smile too

Several young Balinese can undergo this ceremony at the same time and it is often accompanied with a lot of guests, music and many offerings. It is one of the most important ceremonies as it ensures a good reincarnation. Whether or not you believe this reason for tooth filing, I must say that the Balinese have one of the most dashing smiles I have seen.

The next of the many ceremonies in life is marriage. Traditionally the Balinese still marry at a young age compared to people on other continents. While they are not pre-arranged the existing Balinese caste system still has some influence on choosing the right bride or groom.

You would expect that at this stage of life there will be a huge Balinese wedding accompanied with excessive ceremonies. It's possible if the bride and groom choose to celebrate this occasion with their parents and other members of both families. This means grand ceremonies which can cost a fortune.


They can elope. Eloping is more a show than the real thing because the parents just pretend not to know. The Balinese way of eloping is that the man and woman run off together and get married the next day during a private ceremony. When they return the parents continue their 'role in this play' and act if they are outraged.

Ceremonies which take place soon afterwards are often without the bride's parents as they still 'disagree' about the whole thing. But of course all ends well as after 3 days the parents meet and another ceremony takes place (Ketipat Bantal) and the parents reconciliate.

As you can imagine it costs less compared to the first option. So couples often choose to elope. Understandably if you realize that the most important and final event of all Balinese ceremonies in life is the most expensive.

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The final life cycle ceremony is the Balinese cremation (Pengabenan, Ngaben or Palebonan). When touring around the island you are likely to see this ceremony.

We have witnessed it several times and were even able to see one of the biggest in decades: the royal cremation in Ubud in 2008. If you are not fully aware about the reasons of these cremations that take place in Bali you can be quite surprised.


bali cremation
The tower with the deceased

The Balinese consider these final ceremonies as one of the most joyous in their life. When the deceased is cremated his/her soul is released and is able to continue the journey to heaven followed by reincarnation. So instead of sadness, the entire ceremony is a somewhat happy and loud spectacle in which the body of the deceased is carried in a colorful tower to the temple of death.

To make sure that the soul of the deceased will not find its way back home, the tower is turned many times in order to create confusion. I'm always surprised that the tower is still upright after being turned many times by a dozen of carriers. The priest, who is standing near the top of the tower next to the body is remarkably always standing on both feet as well.

Once at the temple the body is placed in a sarcophagus which is often in the form of a bull. The priest sets the sarcophagus on fire to purify the deceased.


bali cremation bull
Carrying the sarcophagus to the temple

One final ceremony will take place 12 days after the cremation. However it can take a bit longer for this ceremony to take place since it's very expensive. During this final ceremony the remaining ashes which have been placed in white and yellow cloth are transported on a beautiful construction to the sea. If the sea is too far, then the ashes will be taken to a river which will guide the ashes to the sea.

The Balinese people believe that the soul will return back as a reincarnation of a new family member, such as the first baby born after this final ritual. And from this point the ceremonies which are part of every Balinese life start again from the very beginning.

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Home > Bali Culture > Bali Festivals

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