Otonan (the Balinese Birthday)


Banten Otonan (offering for the Balinese birthday)

In Bali island, you can find many traditional ceremonies (that are very much related to our religion, Hindu) everyday. From a simple and needs only hundred thousands rupiahs ceremony to elaborated one that needs more than hundred thousands rupiahs. Celebrating a religious ceremony means we have to prepare one or more banten . It can be simple, not so simple, or even exclusive and also expensive. It depends to you and your finance condition.

Banten or offering (a free translation of it, as we cannot find any exact word in English) is something made by the Balinese and present to the God (don’t imagine we come and knock onto His door…it is more in a spiritual sense). One of banten we regularly make is for Otonan, a Balinese birthday anniversary. It is not an annual event, but every 210 days or 7 months in Christian’s calendar. It means that we have our birthday (almost) twice a year! What would be fancier than that?

The offering is consisted of fruits, cakes, tumpeng (rice shaped in mountain-like), tebu (sugar cane) and decorated with sampiyan (made from fresh young coconut leaves). Kind of fruits and cakes is up to you, using local or imported one, traditional or western-style or both, choosing your favorite food for banten is very ok. This effect to your banten cost, let’s compare the price of local mangoes and Washington apples. Each for a kilo, are 10.000 : 40.000 (in rupiahs), even 0 : 40.000 (if you have your own mango trees like us).


Ami-my younger daughter and her banten otonan

Some offerings has grilled chicken, a whole of it, from head to ‘toe’. If one chicken is not affordable, then you can replace it with an egg…you know why…egg is the mini version of chicken. When the offering has been presented to the God, it is called lungsuran or surudan and the food is believed had been blessed by the God.

In Denpasar, after a family member has finished his prayer of Otonan, he or she will eat together with his or her siblings, part of the banten otonan that is called sesayut consist of round shaped rice, topped with grated and roasted coconut, spiced shrimp and of course the (whole) grilled chicken. When I said, together, it means literally together, from one plate on the dulang-where you place your offering. In the sesayut, there are small tulung (bowl-like, made from busung-young coconut leaves filled with steamed rice and spicy shrimps and others. Tulung means help… the philosophical meaning is to eat the tulungs together will make the family boundaries even closer and they will help each other in this jungle world. Whether it is true or not…one clear fact, every time I see my family (read: husband, and our two daughters) have their sesayut…I know we all feel warm and blessed.


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