Bali: Tooth-Filing Ceremony

Definitely a struggle to get out of bed at 5:45am but to experience first-hand one of the principle Balinese ceremonies was worth it.

The thing that stood out for me, having been family at Benjamin’s Bar Mitzvah at the end of August, was how similar in concept the two ceremonies actually are. Both represent official passage to adulthood. Both involve the participation of family and friends. Both have set rituals revolving the chanting from scriptural material. Both are celebrated with feasting… The parallels are striking!

(You can just see Barb in red – she’s actually observing the tooth filing. Cheryl also got to witness the ritual as a close friend of Sari, the mother of two of the girls having their teeth filed. The rest of us who chose to go, were nearby among the gazillion guests – not kidding, there had to be well over 100 people attending, sitting, milling around, while the ceremony was performed.)

In the background were two musicians playing Balinese music, accompanying two women chanting:


A small group of women nearby smiled, and beckoned me over – they didn’t speak any English, I have no Balinese, but it was clear the woman on the right, in green, approved of my attire.

She pointed to my white shirt and gave me a thumbs up, felt the sash and repeated the gesture, pointed to my earrings and gave her approval once more. All four were curious about where I lived – Canada, they understood although I’m sure they have no idea where that is.


The compound was packed – women mixing with women, men with men.



Following the tooth-filing ritual, a priestess began another ceremony:

This time accompanied by two men doing a responsive chanting from a book, then they were joined by a group of women:


At the same time the young people moved to another location in the small compound to bless offerings that had been laid on the ground to ward off demons:


After this ritual, the young people, in all their finery, posed for pictures:


Two more pictures I need to share:


I tried to ascertain the relationship of what was clearly the oldest of the women present, but my English query “Grandmother?” brought gales of laughter. I have no idea who she was.

Even the dog was part of the celebration – whether a family member or the local stray I was unable to find out.

We left before the feasting actually began but it was obvious this celebration is not unlike a Haida Potlatch, an opportunity to show off hugely by sharing lavishly with friends and family. The cost of this event – it may well have run into $3,000 – an enormous expense for a family who earn relatively little.