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Bali Blog - Article About Bali Holiday Island

OTONAN - Balinese birthdays as one of holiday in Bali

15 July 2008

Most rituals in Bali are held in open and public arenas where visitors can easily observe but there are also ritual activities held frequently in domestic spheres which are observe by and participated in by only immediate family members. Although these are not closed ceremonies, they are not usually observed by outsiders.

Among the frequent rituals held inside the house is the otonan, a rite of passage ceremony, which falls every six months or 210 days based on the traditional Balinese calendar. This ceremony is held to commemorate one’s day of birth. The Balinese believe that the otonan ceremony is both a way in which to give thank to God, Ida SangHyang Widhi Wasa, for is blessings and protection since birth, and also a way to neutralize negative impacts received by humans during their current lifetime.

Since otonan is a day-based ceremony, its day is always the same but its date is never the same. Like birthday celebrations, otonan ceremonies are happy occasions and there is even a saying in Bali which goes; " as happy as having an otonan." This clearly indicates that the otonan is related to a good feeling.

A set of elaborate offerings, including punjung, are prepared for an ototnan. Punjung consists of fruit, cakes, rice and vegetables that are served as a mid-day meal to the ancestor whose soul is believed to have been reincarnated in the person having the otonan. The offering of this meal symbolizes an invitation to the spirit of the ancestor, as well as divinities, to come for the otonan ceremony held in the late afternoon.

Unlike big and elaborate rituals held in the public domain, an otonan is relatively small and requires no priest Pedanda or even the lower level priest Pemangku to officiate. Usually the mother or grandmother at the house conducts the ceremony. Since no gamelan music is required, the otonan ritual is relatively quiet and witnesses are mostly members of the household or close friends.

An otonan ceremony can sometimes be an elaborate one, witnessed by more people including member of the extended family. Such special otonans are made because one of the following reasons. The first is as an act of pardon to avoid or prevent one from a series of misfortune or bad luck. The Balinese believe that if one faces or experiences a series of accidents that means he or she has done something wrong. In order to stop or prevent further such accidents, a spiritual pardon is made in the form of otonan.

Prior to such an otonan, his or her family may see a medium, balian, to ask about what might have gone wrong for the person and what should be done to get a spiritual pardon. The spirit of an ancestor or a divinity may give words to them on what they have to do. It could well be that the person is asked to make a special otonan with the inclusion of traditional performance such as shadow puppet, barong, or a social dance of joged bumbung. This otonan and its additional rituals and performance are considered a way to pay for one’s (possible) misbehavior.



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