TOOTH FILING

Every Balinese Hindu must have a ritual ceremony called mepandes or metatah in their youth period. The procedure of this ceremony is dulling someoneís canine teeth before marriage, but for girls, after the first menstruation. Why is metatah is so important for Balinese people?  

Balinese Hinduism can be very highly symbolic, and canine teeth or caling (Balinese word) or fangs is the symbol of bad behavior, uncivilized, even Ďevilí. So, dulling the canine teeth wished can smooth out the bad behavior.  

The person who is expert in filing the teeth is called sangging. According to tradition and lontars, a sangging for tooth filing must be of the Brahmana caste. But, today, lower caste also perform the ceremony. However, most families still prefer to call one of the Brahmana sangging to the task. 

Since tooth filing is so important, the family who held this ceremony will invite their relatives, neighbors and friends; musicians are hired; offerings made; a high caste filer (sangging) will be invited to supervise the ceremony; and the finest clothing is provided for the ceremony participants. In short, the metatah is very expensive. Because of the cost, tooth filing is almost always an adjunct of another ceremony, perhaps a wedding. 

On the day of metatah, the house where the ceremony held is greatly decorated, wrapped and hung with kampuh or gold cloth that used for rituals ceremony. Offerings are everywhere, the filees are dressed in their very finest clothing . Boys are wrapped in a wide piece of songket, gold brocade, that reaches from armpits to knees, with a sash of yellow tied around the waist and a kris dagger slung across the back. Girls wear their lovely traditional kambens, their upper body wrapped tightly with meters of cloth strips. They are crowned with fragrant flowers and gold leaves are wound in their hair. Both boys and girls may wear make up. 

When the rituals begin, the boys and girls lie on a woven mat. The sangging open a yellow coconut (nyuh gading), empties it of its water, and inscribes upon it the magic symbol (ongkara). Tools are laid out, mouthwash is made ready, and a large offering, canang oyodan, is brought close by. The coconut acts as a spittoon nearby. A silver bowl of holy water and a white cloth are at the ready. 

Each candidate stands at the end of the bed opposite from where the sangging will work. They hold their hand to receive a prayer, and waft the essence of the offerings toward themselves. The kris worn by the boy must be removed. The candidate takes off his or her sandals, climbs onto the bed, and receives another mantra and more holy water. He or she then lies down on the bed and is covered with decorated cloth. Parents and close relatives crowd around to put their hands on the boy or girl to ward off evil. 

The sangging puts a small cylinder of sugarcane in the patientís mouth, wedged between the teeth, to keep the jaws open. The sangging may joke with the participant as he works. He then take his small file, kikir, and with his index finger on the flat of the file, sets to work filing. The only teeth that are modified are the two canine teeth in the upper jaw and the four incisors between them, six teeth (symbolizing the sad ripu (six enemies of humanís soul): lust, greed, anger, drunk, confusion, and jealousy). Reducing the influence of these six will help an individual live a healthy, well-adjusted existence as  

apart of a closely knit family and community, and this behavior will insure reincarnation into a better future life. 

The procedure takes only a few minutes, after that the boys or the girls spits the saliva containing the filings into the yellow coconut and it must be buried near the most important shrine in the family temple which insures that its power will always be close to the individual. 


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