This week’s Travel Photo of the Week takes us to the “Island of the gods” Bali, Indonesia. UNESCO-nominated Jatiluwih Terraced Rice Fields is the backdrop for a newly married Balinese couple. Jatiluwih translates into truly marvelous, and what better backdrop than the terraced rice fields that provide food and prosperity to a large portion of Bali?
This must have been a welcome break for the young couple after an exhausting day that began in early morning with many blessings and offerings to the gods. As the guests arrive and are offered tea, coffee and Balinese cakes, the couple participate in a highly ritualized dressing ceremony. As the couple awaits the Pemangku , the local Hindu priest, the family checks the many offerings to the gods including the towering sesajen, elaborately stacked towers of food, and the offering of a suckling pig (the unique version of Hinduism practiced in Bali allows for the eating of pork). The offerings are ritual as the gods consume only the spirit of the food allowing for the dismantling of the food to be eaten by the guests later. Upon arrival the priest performs the ceremony and prayers.
Under the watchful eye of the Pemangku and family, a symbolic enactment of married life is performed by the couple. This includes circling the family compound three times while the groom carries a young coconut (a symbol of new life) strapped to a branch from a sacred tree. The bride carries a basket containing cooked rice, sate, spices, cooking utensils, and cloth. The groom also carries a sapu lidi (straw broom) to cleanse any bad spirits from his new wife by playfully tapping his bride’s bottom as they circle the house. The wife will stop and ritually shop at a market where she will purchase a new coconut with a duck egg inside, this will be later placed under the bridal bed to insure fertility and healthy children. After the third pass the couple breaks a string by walking through it to symbolize the birth of their new life together. The food that the bride has carried around is then fed to the groom as he pays for the food with kepeng (old chinese coins with square holes popular in rituals but once used as actual money in Bali). The final ritual involves the groom piercing a woven mat held by the bride with his kris (an ornate dagger) symbolizing the de-flowering of his bride which is often meet with giggles from the onlookers.
The next phase of the wedding is masangih or the tooth filing ceremony. The Balinese people believe that the aptly named canine teeth make them look too animal-like and also symbolize sad ripu, the sixth weakness of the flesh. Reminiscent of the Bible’s seven deadly sins, the six weaknesses include lust, greed, anger, drunkenness, confusion and jealousy. By eliminating the unevenness of their teeth they can avoid sad ripu.
Finally, they are dressed in traditional Balinese wedding dress (in the photo) for additional prayers and ceremonies, including a trip to the bride’s family compound to introduce the couple to her ancestors. And you thought your wedding was exhausting!
Additional Blog posts about Bali: