Metatah (tooth filing) ceremony in Tulamben – I Preparation

Apr 21, 2021

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Metatah (tooth filing ceremony) is one of the most important for a Balinese Hindu. It is, basically, the filing of the upper canine teeth. It is for real, with a small metal file, the same used for filing steel. Teeth are then smoothed with a sand stone. It is mildly painful, a bit scary. The priests doing it are quite experienced and skilled, and the appearance improves.

The whole purpose is to strip away the coarse, impulsive, traits of character from the teens. Then, embrace an adult, sweeter, temper.  Normally, the balinese do it at late teen age. It can be done at any time afterwards, even after death.

The whole ritual is, as everything related to Balinese Hinduism, quite elastic. It was supposed to be performed early morning, but then changed to the afternoon, as there was a wedding on the same day. Clothing choice was changed many times, until the day before (leaving me quite annoyed, as I ended wearing rented, dirty clothes).

Jewelry is fake, though it still shines on pictures. For the girls, it all seemed outstanding and they were enthusiastic. Make up artists were quite mediocre. I guess they were also cheap. Contrary to Westerners, they weren’t trying to hide defects or beautify faces. The idea, as much as I could understand, was to print some sort of mask over their faces – totally disregarding shapes and characters.

Funny as it seemed, it somehow worked. The girls embraced that sort of virginal doll look… Though the mask would, eventually fall, on several occasions. That was the most interesting part for me, as a photographer.

The final result seemed to left them happy, and that’s what matters. Make up started at 8:30 and around 12:00 all were ready to go to the ceremony place.

Watch the remaining images from this event in here.

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