Babies in Bali are treated like Gods
The floor may seem like the perfect place for babies in Bali to play. Especially when it comes to developing their core muscles and neck strength. Experts all around the world agree that newborns should spend more time on the floor and less time in chairs, swings, and strollers. However, the Balinese beg to differ.
This is due to an old and widely practiced belief that newborns should not make contact with the ground throughout the first 105 days of life.
It’s said that infants are spiritually connected to the sacred realm from which they came and should be treated with great respect. Most Balinese adhere to a variant of Hinduism where reincarnation is a central tenet of faith. When a baby is born, it is believed that the ancestor who has passed away returns to life as a descendant.
Babies under the age of three months are held in the highest regard as they’re seen as visitors from a higher plane. The 108 spirits, or nyama bajang, who look after their souls believe they still belong to the divine. This is why babies in Bali are revered.
It is not until a newborn reaches the age of three months that it is regarded to be firmly attached to the world, or for its soul to have “stuck” to its body, a belief that also factors in the fact that infant mortality rates remain high.
The Balinese believe that if an infant isn’t cared for properly, its spirit can go. Everything in a baby’s environment is meticulously cleaned and presented with the kind of devotion that is usually only shown to gods.
Mothers and female relatives are often responsible for keeping babies off the ground, although dads, uncles, neighbors, shopkeepers, and even foreigners may be enlisted to help. Because of the risk of a young child placing the infant on the ground, and because young children are considered to be more susceptible to negative influences, adults seldom give children this responsibility.
A bed or, in more traditional homes, a playpen made out of a clay bucket, is where a newborn will spend most of their time at home.
At the end of 105 days, or 210 days in certain Balinese villages, an ornate ritual called nyabutan or nyambutin is celebrated. For the infant, it represents a symbolic entry into the world.
The Ceremony starts with cleansing the parents. In the ritual, family and close friends thank and bid goodbye to the 108 spirits who have helped keep the infant safe.
To prepare the infant mentally, spiritually and physically for the next phase of life, holy water is sprinkled and food offerings are given to pacify evil spirits and attract kind-hearted ones.
In most cases, a trance shaman known as a balian acts as an official and makes contact with the dead in order to determine who has been reincarnated.
The three-month old’s hair is cut off because it is considered impure.
Finally, the newborn’s feet are placed firmly on the ground for the first time, and a name is chosen for the child. Some rituals include writing potential names on leaves and setting them on burning sticks; whatever name burns first is the one chosen for the newborn.
Not all is lost if the infant’s feet touch the floor before the 105-day mark.
Any negative energy or influence that the newborn may have been exposed to will be expelled during the 105-day ritual.
Make the most of your time in Bali with your family by getting expert guidance before you go.