Celebrations of life – Balinese Ceremonies for Birth and Childhood

Posted by Christina Zipperlen on

Photo Credit: IB Putra Adnyana

In the enchanting island of Bali, where spirituality intertwines with everyday life, ceremonies play a profound role in marking significant milestones, especially in the realm of birth and childhood. Balinese culture holds a rich tapestry of rituals and traditions, each meticulously crafted to honor the journey of new life, from conception to infancy and beyond. An intricate web of Balinese ceremonies weaves through the phases of pregnancy, birth and the early years of a child’s life preparing and supporting it for its purpose in this world.


Pregnancy is regarded as a sacred and significant phase in a woman's life. Pregnancy is seen as a divine blessing and a manifestation of the sacred cycle of life. It is believed that the soul of the unborn child is entrusted by the gods, and thus, expectant mothers are revered for their role in nurturing new life.

The special part is that pregnancy is marked by a series of rituals and ceremonies aimed at ensuring the well-being of both the mother and the unborn child. These ceremonies involve offerings to the gods, prayers for a safe delivery, and rituals to ward off negative energies. They serve to invoke divine blessings, protect the expectant mother from harm, and usher the unborn child into the world under the watchful gaze of the deities.

Motherhood is highly esteemed in Balinese culture, and pregnant women are revered for their role as bearers of life.

Throughout pregnancy, expectant mothers undergo preparations for childbirth, including physical conditioning, spiritual rituals, and mental preparation. Traditional midwives, known as "Ibu Bidan," play a vital role in providing prenatal care, childbirth assistance, and postpartum support, drawing upon centuries-old knowledge passed down through generations.

Ngerorasin (Three-Month Ceremony):

Held at the three-month mark of pregnancy, Ngerorasin is a ritual to purify the mother and unborn child. Offerings are made to the deities, and a priest performs prayers to safeguard against any potential harm or negative energies.

Tujuh Bulanan (Seven-Month Ceremony): 

The Tujuh Bulanan, or Seven-Month Ceremony, marks a significant milestone in the journey of pregnancy. Around the seventh month, when the mother-to-be is believed to have gained strength and stability, this ceremony is performed to formally announce the pregnancy to the community and seek blessings for a safe delivery and a healthy child.

Photo Credit: IB Putra Adnyana


  • Prior to the ceremony, preparations are made by the family and community members. Offerings, including fruits, flowers, and symbolic items, are meticulously arranged as offerings to the deities.
  • A special place, often within the family compound or a temple, is designated for the ceremony. Decorations adorn the area, creating an atmosphere of reverence and anticipation.

Ceremony Highlights:

  • A priest conducts prayers and blessings, invoking the protection of the gods for the expectant mother and her unborn child.
  • Offerings are made to the deities, symbolizing gratitude for the gift of new life and seeking divine guidance for a smooth pregnancy and childbirth.
  • Family and community members gather to offer their support and well wishes to the expectant parents, fostering a sense of unity and belonging.


  • The Tujuh Bulanan ceremony symbolizes the transition into the final stages of pregnancy, with the expectant mother being honored and supported by her community.
  • It reflects Balinese beliefs in the interconnectedness of life, where the spiritual realm intertwines with the physical world, and communal support plays a vital role in nurturing new life.



Birth is revered as a sacred and auspicious event, marking the arrival of a new soul into the world and the continuation of the family lineage. It is seen as a profound transition, both for the newborn and the family. It is believed that the soul of the child is carefully chosen and entrusted by the divine, and the moment of birth is regarded as a sacred manifestation of this spiritual journey. Often a child’s birth is seen as the rebirth of a deceased relative, with ancestors returning as their own descendants.

It is believed that the presence of divine forces surrounds the newborn, protecting them from harm and bestowing blessings for a prosperous future. Rituals and ceremonies are performed to honor these spiritual beliefs and seek divine guidance for the newborn's journey through life.

Further, birth marks the beginning of a series of rites of passage that will shape the child's identity and social standing within the community. From the moment of birth, the child is welcomed into the family lineage and initiated into the cultural traditions and customs that define Balinese identity.

Birth is viewed as a continuation of the ancestral lineage, connecting the newborn to their family's heritage and the spirits of their ancestors. Ancestors are believed to play a protective role in the life of the newborn, guiding them and offering spiritual support as they navigate the journey of life.

  • Mekala-Kalaan: This is the Balinese version of a baby shower, held shortly before the birth. Friends and family gather to offer blessings, gifts, and advice to the expectant mother.


Postpartum Ceremonies

Ritual of Burying the Placenta After Birth

In Balinese tradition, the placenta is regarded as sacred, symbolizing the connection between the unborn child and the divine. After childbirth, a special ritual is performed to honor the placenta and ensure its proper disposition.

Photo Credit: Jabertaud


  • The ritual of burying the placenta typically takes place shortly after childbirth, either within the family compound or in a designated location with spiritual significance.
  • A pit or hole is dug in the earth, symbolizing the womb of Mother Earth, where the placenta will be interred.

Ceremony Highlights:

  • Family members and community elders gather to witness the ritual, offering prayers and blessings for the newborn and the placenta.
  • The placenta is carefully placed in the prepared pit, often accompanied by offerings of flowers, rice, and other symbolic items.
  • Prayers are offered to the deities, expressing gratitude for the gift of life and seeking protection and guidance for the newborn's journey.


  • The ritual of burying the placenta symbolizes the cyclical nature of life and death, reflecting the Balinese belief in reincarnation and the eternal bond between the individual and the earth.
  • It emphasizes the sacredness of the placenta as a vessel of life, honoring its role in nourishing and sustaining the unborn child during gestation.

The Three-Month Ceremony After Birth (Nyabutan)

Nyabutan is a significant postpartum ceremony conducted when the child reaches three months of age (conducted on the child's 105th day). It signifies the end of the postpartum confinement period and the introduction of the newborn to the outside world.

Photo Credit: Mbahrgo

Before this ceremony Balinese babies are not allowed to touch the earth. The practice derives from a belief that newborns are still close to the sacred realm from which they came. Their spirits still belong to the divine and are taken care of by their nyama bajang, or 108 spirits. That’s why people in Bali always try to treat babies like gods.

A ritual bids farewell to the 108 spirits and thanks them for having protected the baby.


  • Similar to other Balinese ceremonies, preparations for Nyabutan involve the creation of offerings and the decoration of the ceremonial space.
  • Family members gather together, bringing gifts and offerings to commemorate the occasion.

Ceremony Highlights:

  • The ceremony typically takes place at the family temple or another sacred location. A priest presides over the rituals, guiding the family through the ceremonial proceedings.
  • At the start of the ceremony, the parents are purified. A ritual then bids farewell to the 108 spirits and thanks them for having protected the baby.
  • Offerings are made to the deities, to appease demons and entice benevolent spirits to strengthen the child for the next stage of life. It is an expressing of gratitude for the safe arrival of the newborn and seeking blessings for their health and well-being.
  • The hair carried by the baby since birth, considered unclean, is cut off.
  • Finally, the infant touches the ground for the first time and is officially given a name.
  • The child is formally introduced to the community, symbolizing their integration into the social fabric of Balinese society.


  • Nyabutan symbolizes the transition from the intimate space of the home to the broader community, emphasizing the interconnectedness of family and society.
  • It reinforces the importance of communal support and collective responsibility in nurturing and protecting new life, reflecting Balinese values of harmony and cooperation.


This is the Balinese version of a birthday celebration, but it's observed every 210 days according to the Balinese Pawukon calendar. It's an occasion for family gatherings, prayers, and offerings to ensure the child's continued health and prosperity.

Photo credit: Yogi Belayu Studio

Important Ceremonies in a Child's Life

  • Metatah: Typically performed when the child is between three months to three years old, Metatah is a significant rite of passage. It involves a tooth-filing ceremony symbolizing the removal of negative traits and the transition into adulthood.
  • Odalan: An odalan is a temple festival held to honor the anniversary of a temple's consecration. Children are actively involved in these festivities, learning about their cultural heritage and spiritual practices from a young age.
  • Mekidung-dung: This ceremony celebrates a child's first steps. It's a joyous occasion where family and friends come together to witness and celebrate this important developmental milestone.
  • Mapandes: This elaborate purification ceremony is performed when a child reaches puberty. It signifies their transition into adulthood and involves various rituals aimed at cleansing the body, mind, and spirit.


In the vibrant tapestry of Balinese culture, these ceremonies serve as threads that bind communities together, reinforcing bonds, and passing down traditions from one generation to the next. They provide a sacred framework for nurturing life, celebrating milestones, and fostering a deep connection to spirituality and community. In Bali, every stage of life is marked with reverence, reminding us of the beauty and significance of the journey from birth to maturity.

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