To ensure an orderly transition of the human spirit – from birth to death and into the reincarnational cycle
Unlike the western version of Dracula, the procedure of tooth filing in Bali is still being practised to diminish the savage characteristic known as “Sad Ripu”: greed, lust, anger, confusion, stupidity, jealousy, ill-will, etc. This ceremony is called “metatah” or “mepandes” which means to chisel/ carve. Metatah is considered as one of the compulsory rituals during someone’s life, along with other practices called “Manusa Yadnya” which includes prenatal rites, birth ceremony, marriage and cremation.
The best age to perform this ceremony is between 6 to 18 years old, but for the girls after their first menstruation is the perfect time. Some Balinese nowadays performed this ritual a bit late, but it is still okay as long as they haven’t got married, they said better late than never. If a person passes away before performing this ritual, the family should do the ceremony to the corpse before burial.
Tooth filing ceremony has implications beyond Hinduism; it is more related to Balinese tradition. For locals, long canine teeth are not good enough aesthetically, so it is more for beautification reasons. However, Bali Hinduism also honor Dewa Kama or also known as Sang Hyang Semara Ratih, The God of beauty. Dewa Kama is believed to bring success in life, cure sickness, chase away evil and bless their worshippers with the beauty of flowers.
This ritual can not be done by only picking up a day, but a particular calculation and some consultations to the religious leader or priest is mandatory. During this special day, the family will decorate the house with beautiful Bali ornaments; some statues and pillars will be wrapped in white and golden colour cloth. Gamelan and puppet show sometime also will be performed to entertain all the guests and family along with other delicious foods prepared by the host. The invitees and families who come, sometimes bring a gift or present to be given to the filee.
The filee has to wear appropriate traditional clothing made of songket and gold brocades. The girls must wear a crown made of flowers and golden leaves, while the boys are armed with keris and udeng. The ritual will be started with the priest/ pedanda reading some mantras and give the holy water. During the filing process, the boy/ girl will lie down on a special woven mat with the figure of Dewa Kama on it. The priest will put a small wedge of sugarcane in the fillee’s mouth to keep the jaw open, then he will start to modify the two upper canine teeth while making small talk to divert the attention, just like the dentists do toward their patients in his clinic. The ceremony finished by praying together in the family temple. But for the filee, their rituals are not over yet. They have to remain isolated at home for another three days, and after that, they have to eat special foods with six different tastes: bitter, sweet, salty, spicy, sour and burned taste.
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