Defining Marriage in Hindu Bali
The above are some romantic responses you might receive when asking couples why they want to get married. But what is the real reason that people get married?
The world is filled with a plethora of cultures and attitudes, but in general marriage can be defi ned as a legal agreement that generates rights and obligations between spouses, their children and their in-laws. It is not just about a glamorous reception or an expensive wedding ring – the celebration is only the beginning.
In the Balinese Hindu religion there are four stages in life, called Catur Asrama. To commit to married life is to move into the second stage of Grehasta Asrama, or the time for forming a family. This comes after Brahmacari Asrama, the stage of gaining knowledge. The third stage is Wanaprasta Asrama, or the time for Hindus to increase their spiritual consciousness and reduce the desire for glitz and glamour. The final stage is Bhiksuka Asrama, which means freedom. It is believed that true happiness will come from the ability to live without any bonds.
Commitment & Responsibility
In Bali, getting married is not only about passing on DNA but also about community ties. The main reason Balinese Hindu parents push their children to get married is to make sure their family continues to be a part of society. It is more than just a union between two families; there will be many responsibilities that the newlyweds will have to take over for their parents within their extended family, the neighborhood and society.
Another reason why Balinese Hindus decide to marry is to have a partner in maintaining the family heritage. Heritage here refers to neither property nor any other earthly materials, but to the family temple. Houses, businesses and anything else handed over to newlyweds by their parents are merely tools for maintaining the family temple and following through with their cultural obligations in the future.
After casual talks between the bride and groom and their parents, the proposal, or Memandik ceremony, is conducted the traditional way. A priest will decide on an appropriate date for the proposal and wedding day based on the Balinese calendar.
On the proposal day, the groom’s family will visit the bride’s house to talk with her extended family.
They will come bearing offerings and gifts such as food, clothes and jewelry to show their enthusiasm for the wedding. The elders from both sides will then have a serious conversation about their family trees, as well as their visions and aims for the sacred union. This is also the time for both families to get to know each other better.
Mungkab Lawang is when the groom’s family will ‘pick up the bride.’ This symbolizes respect from the groom’s family to the bride’s family, where they ask for permission from the bride’s family to let their daughter devote the rest of her life to the family of the groom. The eldest of the groom’s family knocks on the main door of the bride’s family house with rhymes that are answered by the eldest from the bride’s side. After this the bride is taken to the groom’s house for the wedding ceremony.
The ceremony begins with Biyakala and Prayascita, a purification led by a priest. Afterwards the groom and bride exchange vows and sign a wedding certificate witnessed by both families and a community leader. After the legal paperwork has been signed, the newlyweds pray at the groom’s family temple.
Next comes Medagang-dagangan. Medangan means to sell, and in this unique ceremony the bride acts as a seller and the groom acts as a buyer who wants to buy whatever is being sold by the bride (usually food). After the bride sets a base price for the goods, the groom bargains with her until they finally agree on a fair price. This ceremony represents the times in married life that they might not be on the same page and must compromise in order to uphold their vows.
At the end of the Medagang-dagangan ceremony the groom cuts a mat held by the bride with a keris (a Balinese traditional sword). This represents the consummation of the marriage and the hope for offspring, in order to build a complete family. Finally, the bride and groom pray again at the groom’s family temple to wish for happiness in their married life ahead.
• Wedding ceremonies in Bali used to take a week to perform, but nowadays can be completed in less than three days.
• Everyone from the extended family to the neighbors will get involved in organizing a wedding, from the preparation all the way to the ceremony itself. So basically there is no need for a wedding organizer!
• Wedding ceremonies in Bali will vary due to various local customs.
Contributor : Bayu Rahanatha
Magazine issue > Craft&Culture