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Munggah Deha: Balinese Puberty Ceremony (The Onset of Menstruation at Menarche)

This ceremony celebrates puberty when a girl is blossoming into her womanhood. Balinese girls become members of the community youth association (Seka Teruna-Teruni) after this ceremony.



Young Balinese Girls, source: Tropenmuseum

The ceremony indicates that becoming a woman, a girl also becomes a Brahmacharini. Becoming a Brahmacharini means the girl that is becoming a woman will dedicate her life to education and spiritual learning until she is ready to get married. During this stage of life, the Brahmacharini may remain pure so she can focus on her study and spirituality in her early womanhood. This stage of learning is also a stage of preparation to submit to the cosmic influence of Bhatara Smara and Bhatari Ratih, the symbol of love and sexual union.


Mythology of Smaradhana

Once upon a time there was a chaos in svarga caused by Nilarudraka. All gods in khayangan were fighting against him but no one succeeded. It was said that only Ganesha - one of Bhatara Siwa's children who may defeat Nilarudraka. So then Bhatara Smara was sent to deliver the request to Bhatara Siwa who at time was on his samadhi on top of the sacred mountain called Kailasa.


Using the bow and arrow of love, Bhatara Smara shot the meditating Bhatara Siwa. Suddenly Bhatara Siwa felt the desire to see his wife. His heart was filled with memories of past love-making with Bhatari Uma, so he promptly stopped his meditation. When Bhatara Siwa opened his eyes, he caught sight of Bhatara Smara still holding his bow.


Asmaradhana Painting by I Ketut Gede, circa 1890

Angered by the fact that Bhatara Smara had dared to disturb his samadhi, Bhatara Siwa burned Bhatara Smara into ashes. Bhatara Smara's wife, Bhatari Ratih, out of her love, devotion, and loyalty, asked Bhatara Siwa to be burned so she could be together with her husband. Her request was granted and she became ashes together with Bhatara Smara.


Bhatari Uma, who felt sorry for Bhatara Smara and Bhatari Ratih, came to see her husband and pleaded to bring Bhatara Smara and Bhatari Ratih back. Bhatara Siwa would not grant his wife wish but he would agree to let Bhatara Smara and Bhatari Ratih's spirits fall to the earth and together they became the spirit of love and devotion that will guide human to find their love.


Munggah Deha Ceremony by I Nyoman Darta from the book Time, Rites, and Festivals in Bali

Smaradhana in Munggah Deha Tradition

It is believed that when a boy and a girl are going through puberty, they are ready to receive the spirit of Bhatara Smara and Bhatari Ratih. By then, the preparation is needed. Munggah Deha Ceremony's main purpose is to prepare these young boys and girls to receive Bhatara Smara and Bhatari Ratih's spirit qualities which are: love and devotion, but also lust and desire. These qualities need the ability of self-control and these boys and girls will enter the phase of pendewasaan (the process of maturing).

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