Otonan: Birthday Celebrations The Balinese Way
The majority of the world celebrates a typical birthday in accordance with the Roman Calendar where a year consists 12 months and a month consists of 30 or 31 days, the Balinese Hindu have their own distinctive reference of time, which in turn changes when they celebrate a birthday.
First of all, a Balinese Hindu calendar is a harmonious blend of lunar and solar calculation. A cycle in the calendar means 30 weeks with a total of 210 days. A month is called pawukon or wuku that derives from weton – a word that is derived from the Javanese ancient language. In the calendar system, there are two kinds of week; there is a week that consists of seven days called Saptawara, the days are called Redite (Sunday), Soma (Monday), Anggara (Tuesday), Budha (Wednesday), Wrespati (Thursday), Sukra (Friday), and Saniscara (Saturday). And then, there is Pancawara, which is a week that is comprised of five days, which are Umanis, Paing, Pon, Wage, and Kliwon. For example, if a person was born on Redite Umanis Sinta (the name of the first week), then he/she is to celebrate their next birthday (also known as Otonan) exactly on the same day after 210 days have passed. And the cycle repeats itself every 210 days. When a Balinese person celebrates their 21st birthday on the Roman calendar, the Otonan birth date magically takes place on the same day.
Otonan is considered much more important than celebrating a birthday in accordance with the world’s standard calendar system. The celebration doesn’t have to be big and fancy, it can be very simple as long as the main offering is there. Usually the Otonan is conducted by the eldest in the family or Pemangku (Hindu priest) – the first and the second Otonan is usually conducted by a priest while subsequent Otonan can be conducted even by a mother or father. At the end of the prayer, the person celebrating their birthday will get white thread worn as bracelet; this is actually a symbol for purity, simple-hearted and persistence.
The size of the offering made for the Otonan varies from village to village or even from one family to others. The details of the offering are also diverse according to the tradition of the hometown and creativity of the preparer, but the essence always remains the same.
The first celebration for a new addition to a Balinese family is 105 days after birth. The celebration follows with the Otonan another 105 days later. It is normal to the Balinese, especially those who live in the village, to calculate age according to the number of the Otonan that have taken place. For instance, a two year old baby is said to be as old as a three or four year old Oton. But the celebration of Otonan does not continue forever.
For girls, the family stop conducting Otonan once the girl gets married. In some places, the family conducts Otonan for either male or female only four times after birth. However, parents always remember the Otonan of their children, because that very specific day is a guiding principal should their children partake in other religious rites in the future, such as tooth filing ceremonies or weddings.