Over the weekend, we had one of the most special days in all of our travels so far. Our wonderful driver, Agus, who took us to Ubud and all the places we noted yesterday, invited us to his newborn baby’s Tutug Kambuhan ceremony. This Bali Hindu tradition occurs when the baby is 42 days old, and is a purification ceremony for both mother and child.
We arrived at the family “compound” just before 5:00 pm. Many generations ago, families built a wall around their living area with an entrance that looks like a temple. Inside is a large courtyard with several homes, usually the parents’ home surrounded by homes given to their married children. One small structure is a communal kitchen and eating area. In the middle is a type of hut that is used for drying rice. Agus told us that if Indonesians don’t have rice every day, they feel that something is off, just not right.
Agus’ wife’s name is Miles (MEE-liss). She is a beautiful 26-year-old woman, and most of the time she was cuddling the baby, Kirana, looking at her lovingly, and taking care of her every need. She let us hold her, and Kirana was one happy baby, very contented. There were about 20-30 people there, including both sets of grandparents, extended family members, and bunches of excited children, running around and playing like children everywhere. We had bought some toys for the couple’s two older children so that they didn’t feel left out, but we didn’t know there would be so many kids there. Luckily, we bought a beach bucket filled with shovels and molds to make animals and castles out of sand, so everybody had something to play with. We thought everything would be scattered around the courtyard, but were astounded about an hour later to see the bucket filled with each and every item! Agus told us the next day that he took the older boys, Rakrian and Tirta, to the beach to play with the beach toys.
On to the ceremony! As you can see in the photos, the Hindu pemangku, whom Agus and Miles called their “pastor” so that we would understand his role, was dressed in white. He chanted all of the prayers in Sanskrit, and everyone present admitted that they did not understand his words, but they understood that he was praying for them and Kirana. It was so interesting to watch. Like a Christian Baptism, he sprinkled her with water, but did so about 50 times, usually with a plumeria flower but also with a hard-boiled egg, woven bamboo fronds, or leaves. Many times, he broke off a piece of white or red string, and these were tied around her wrist, around her toes, or gently placed on her head. The parents got some of everything the baby did, as well! At one point, uncooked rice was thrown on all of their heads. Several times, incense was burned and everyone fanned the smoke toward Kirana to bless her. To her credit, Kirana never cried or fussed, but calmly accepted 45 minutes of all of this attention, things placed on her, and water sprinkled. During most of it, the pastor rang a bell for long periods of time. This didn’t affect her, either. She was great.
When Agus acted as our driver, he wore a t-shirt and jeans, but for this Hindu ceremony, he dressed in festive ceremonial garb. His head covering, which resembles a turban, is called an udeng. The sarong around his waist is called a kamen. The women all wore bright sashes around their waists called a selendang. Everyone was either barefoot or wearing flip-flops…..except us! We weren’t up on our Balinese ceremonial dress. Neither did we wear sarongs or sashes or head coverings…but everyone was very gracious and eager to welcome us and smile at us….huge smiles!
For the second half of the ceremony, we moved to an altar area with the bale agung… baskets of fruit, flowers, coconut leaves, woven fronds. More chanting in Sanskrit. More sprinkling. More bell ringing. But for this part, the father disappeared…maybe because it was the mother/daughter purification part? We are unclear on the meaning. We did film a little of this part. Note the bell and the roosters crowing!
After the ceremony and all of that praying, chanting, sprinkling, ringing, and purifying, it was time to eat! The last photo is of Agus’ brother-in-law, who did the grilling. We were treated to a feast of fish, chicken, rice, curried eggs, sautéed greens, watermelon, and a salsa-type condiment called sambal matah, which Mike has every morning for breakfast. It is a dish of mostly finely-diced hot chilies…way too spicy for Jan, but perfect for Mike with his fish and chicken. After dinner we talked a bit (Miles works in food service at the Ritz-Carlton, and her English is excellent), we played with the older children, chased them around the courtyard, and enjoyed being part of a family for a few hours. We thanked them profusely for being kind enough to invite us to witness this unique Hindu ceremony. It was certainly a highlight of our travels up until now.