So, off to one of my favorite places in the world: Bali. On this, my 11th visit, my intent is clear: manifest festivals and experience some magic. We arrive at the beautiful Ibah Villas on the edge of Ubud and Campuhan. Our host is my friend Asri, Ibah’s owner and the Princess of Ubud. She tells us about a tooth filing ceremony that will take place in an hour. Sounds grizzly, but I’m game as I know the Balinese are a peaceful people and always throw a good party. One suggestion: when checking into your hotel on the first day, ask the staff about any upcoming temple or special ceremonies going on.
It turns out that tooth filing is the primary rite of passage for Balinese teenagers (much more interesting I think than “my first beer” or “my debutante ball”). This traditional ritual has two purposes: 1) to curb the appetite of adolescents for lust, greed, and anger; and 2) to send a message to the gods that these fangless kids with smooth teeth are not demons – thus, providing a path for reincarnation.
Thousands of family members and villagers filled the outdoor pavilion as 140 teens got their sacred dental work. Small world: I ran into a someone I know who had flown from San Francisco with her friend (pictured here with her daughter and Balinese ex-husband). The teenager wanted to come back and experience her ancestral rite of passage. The Balinese are known for their warmth and their beautiful smiles; as one teenager reminded me, “Your smile is a gift to the world.”