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Tooth Filing Ceremony

Balinese belief system, the ceremony helps people rid themselves of the invisible forces of evil – teeth are the symbol of lust, greed, anger, insobriety, confusion and jealousy. Filing the teeth therefore renders someone both more physically and more spiritually beautiful, as well as symbolising the rite of passage for an adolescent into adulthood.


Whenever possible, the filer is a member of the highest caste, the Brahmin (priest). They are known as Sangging, and use simple tools to conduct their work – a file, a small hammer, and a carver. These are purified with holy water prior to the ceremony by a lay priest. Items provided by the family include a mirror, a piece of sugar cane, and some young coconut. The person having their teeth filed must remain in isolation indoors for the whole day prior to the ceremony, in order to remain protected from the negative influences of magic – while they are still considered “immature’, prior to the ceremony, they are particularly vulnerable to the influence of evil spirits.

Artifacts found in the Buleleng regency have resealed that the Balinese have been holding the tooth filing ceremony for over 2000 years, hence it was not originally a Hindu ceremony. However, amidst the influx of other influences on the island, the tradition has remained, now having been absorbed into the predominantly Hindu belief system prevalent on the island. The principal of karma phala demonstrates how the Balinese always link present events with the past: karma means “action” or “attitude” and Phala means “effect”.

Ceremonies are usually held between 4.00 am to 6.00 am, before the sun rises, and are accompanied by religious songs. After the tooth filing ceremony, the teenager is considered to be a mature adult. In recent years, families have taken to holding their children’s ceremonies in a group in order to economise.

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