Ceremonies in Bali, a dilemma of tradition and budget

Ceremonies in Bali are integral to island life, reflecting the deep-rooted Hindu beliefs of its residents. While these ceremonies hold immense cultural value, they often come at a high cost and place enormous financial strain on families.

The Significance of Ceremonies in Bali

Ceremonies are thought to offer balance to a person’s life and to strengthen their spiritual connection with the divine. As the ceremonies mark various stages of life, as well as agricultural and religious events, the most important ones are accompanied by vibrant processions, traditional music and dance performances, alongside sophisticated rituals and elaborate offerings to honour the gods and ancestors.

Expenses Involved

While visually captivating, these big ceremonies come at a steep price and require serious preparation. The expenses can vary depending on the scale and complexity of the ceremony but quickly add up. Thus, Balinese families often spend an excessive amount of their income to fulfil their spiritual and social obligations – think offerings, custom clothing, ornaments, decorative structures, food, donations to priests and community, and more. For ceremonies like weddings, a baby’s three-month ritual or cremations, families may go into debt or sell assets to fund the grand events.

Financial Responsibility

In Bali, the financial responsibility for ceremonies is primarily borne by the immediate family hosting the event. Nevertheless, Balinese families have a strong sense of communal support and often come together to share the financial burden. Customs has it that relatives, neighbours, and friends contribute financially and through labour, helping with preparations, cooking, and participating in the ceremony. This collective responsibility reflects the spirit of gotong-royong, a traditional Balinese concept of cooperation and assistance. While the costs are shared, so is the burden on an island where the average monthly income is around 172€.

The Impact on Poverty

While spectacular offerings satisfy spiritual and social needs, they take a heavy toll on the Balinese. The never-ending cycle of ceremonies and obligations is a major factor contributing to the cycle of poverty in low-income families. Many struggle to afford the costs and must choose between meeting spiritual obligations or providing basic needs like food, housing, healthcare and education for children. Additionally, families may face societal pressure to organize grand ceremonies to maintain their social status.

While the customary ceremonies of Bali are undoubtedly a beautiful representation of the island’s vibrant living culture, for locals trapped in the poverty cycle, it’s far from a true paradise. Thus, it is essential to acknowledge the financial responsibilities associated with these ceremonies and find sustainable solutions to preserve Balinese traditions. By offering educational opportunities, fundraisers for adequate housing and nurturing sustainable livelihoods beyond tourism, Volunteer Programs Forever aims to preserve the spirit of Bali while uplifting the lives of its people.