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Pawiwahan: Balinese Wedding Ceremony

For Balinese, marriage is one of the rite of passage where one moves to the second stage of life (grahasta). Gra / grha means home and sta / stha means cultivate. It's a phase when a man and a woman become a couple creating a family and domestic life; also the symbol of sacred sexual union witnessed by Sang Hyang Widhi Wasa. In which during the process, they will find a new balance between the catur purusa artha (four goals of life): dharma (goodness through service), kama (desire), artha (wealth), and moksha (liberation).


Upacara Pawiwahan; Bali Circa 1948

The ceremony includes the purification of sukla swanita (the "seed" from both the bride and the groom) alongside with their physical and spiritual bodies with the hope that the soon-to-be-baby is free from the bad influences of Bhuta Kala. There are three (3) major intentions of Pawiwahan: Dharmasampati - the practice of dharma, Praja - continuing the offspring, and Rati - sexual union and other worldly pleasures that align with dharma. There are four (4) types of Pawiwahan: memadik - proposal, ngerorod or merangkat - elopement, nyentana - son in law adoption, kejangkepan - arranged marriage by the parents.


Set of Pawiwahan Ceremony

  1. Padewasan Calculation - choosing the date

  2. Ngekeb - bride preparation: a set of self-care and pampering, continued with purification bath ceremony using kembang tujuh rupa (seven types of flowers) and prayers.

  3. Mungkah Lawang - after being prepared, the bride will be picked up by the groom's family at her house. Mungkah Lawang is when her room door is knocked signing that the groom is asking her permission for bringing her back to the groom's family house.

  4. Mesegeh Agung - upon their arrival at the groom's, they'll be welcomed by the grooms family as a greeting that she has been accepted to her new family and to leave her old life behind to begin the new one. The groom's mother will remove the yellow garment from the bride's attire as a symbol of the new beginning.

  5. Mabyakala - purification of sukla swanita. It's the main ceremony and prayers. By the end of prayers, they'll bathe and clean up, this step is called angelus wimoha that signifies a transformation from nyomia Bhuta Kala Nareswari to Sang Hyang Smara Ratih.

  6. Mewidhi Widana - a ceremony asking for blessings from the groom ancestors at his family's temple.

  7. Mejauman - also called mepamit at the bride's family temple asking for permission to leave the family.


Pawiwahan in Tejakula Bali; source: Wereldculturen Museum


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