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Metatah: Tooth Filing Ceremony (Entering adulthood ceremony)

Metatah ceremony is a ritual that involves the filing of six teeth in the upper jaw. It is believed that the pointed teeth symbolize animalistic and demonic character that the mankind might have. This ceremony is said to give people a proper control over their six private enemies (sad ripu): kama - desire, loba - greed, krodha - anger, moha - confusion, and matsarya - jealousy. This ceremony should be done sometime after puberty and before marriage, ideally by the legal age - 18.


Upacara Metatah; circa 1957

Balinese believes that the disposition of an individual is controlled by three (3) gunas (characteristics), called Triguna Sakti:

  • Sattwam - calm, quiet, honesty, righteousness, and nobility

  • Rajas - frantic, aggressive, lustful, and violent

  • Tamas - passive, lazy, sluggish, and benefiting from others without really doing the work

Rajas and tamas are coming from the sad ripu that are believed as the weaknesses of the flesh. Reducing the influence of this six enemies will help mankind live a healthy and fulfilling life.

The ceremony is begun with prayers and purification in the family temple. After that, one will be dressed in white and yellow attire (the color of Sang Hyang Smara Ratih). In honor of Sang Hyang Smara Ratih, this ceremony should take place in Bale Gading, a bale made from a type of bamboo called tiying gading, decorated with yellow fabrics and accessories. Head pointing upstream, one lies on symbolic representation of Sang Hyang Smara Ratih as a sign that the time of sexual union is approaching. One may not move, close their eyes (ngidem), and spit during the ceremony.


After the ceremony, one has to eat a traditional food called padamal that consists of the six (6) different tastes: pait (bitter), manis (sweet), pakeh (salty), lalah (spicy), masem (sour), and nyangluh (burned taste) as the sign one has now entered adulthood. For three (3) days after metatah, one should not go out.


Tooth Filing Ceremony as Beautification Rite

Continuing the previous puberty ceremony: munggah deha, metatah is still linked to Smaradhana mythology. After Bhatara Smara and Bhatari Ratih's spirits fall to the earth, they became not only as the spirit of love, they also became the god of beauty. Pointed teeth are considered visually unpleasing for Balinese. So, metatah can both lessen the sad ripu and also symbolically and physically prepare the young adults to be more attractive to the opposite sex.


The Story of Kala Tattwa

Metatah ceremony is often linked with the story of Kala Tattwa. Kala, the god of time, was born from the semen of interrupted sexual intercourse between Bhatara Siwa and Bhatari Uma fell into the sea. Bhatara Siwa wouldn't recognize Bhatara Kala as his child unless Bhatara Kala cut his canine teeth. By then, the access to God is possible only for those who are able to control their animalistic nature.


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