A Balinese woman hasn’t become the ideal housewife if she cannot do Payas Bali, a Balinese Bridal Tradition, the art of make-up and wedding attire in Balinese weddings.
Looking through life in Bali, we can see how important the role of a woman is in most of the scenes. Since the beginning, to become an ideal Balinese housewife is to master several positions in the house. First is as a chef, for a Balinese woman will be an ideal wife if she is able to cook. Second, she has to earn some money too. But that’s not all. Even though a Balinese woman is able to cook and make money, she hasn’t been an ideal Balinese woman if she cannot do make up. Make up is essential in Balinese life, as many cultural traditions like ceremonies or traditional dancing require make up.
Culture-Based Community Programs
The unique yet complex role of a Balinese women has inspired many foundations to create programs to help Balinese women from poor families to achieve their goals as ideal Balinese wives.
Literacy programs, women’s entrepreneurship programs, and culture-based skill training programs have been prepared by Bali’s government in collaboration with Bali-based foundations to fight against poverty, with Balinese women as the main focus. The recent growth of the hospitality industry in Bali, which has transformed the island into a wedding destination, had given the
opportunity for tradition Balinese bridal training programs as one of the main programs of the government and many of the Bali-based
There are lots of foundations and people who care about the poverty issue and one of them is Made Rahayuni, who has seen the opportunity and designed a comprehensive program, joining forces with the government and other foundations in Bali.
A culture-based training program dedicated to poor families was established to help them raise their economic level yet also to preserve the culture itself.
The program focuses on Balinese bridal traditions with Balinese women from poor families as the participants. She teaches them how to put on make up and prepare wedding attire for the bride and groom in Balinese style. Despite all the economics results and culture preservation ideas, Rahayuni as the founder of the Candra Dewi Foundation keeps in mind that the real goal of the program is more to make a Balinese woman into an ideal wife. This program that was established 10 years ago has made hundreds of their members into businesswomen or career women.
Balinese Bridal Tradition “Payas Bali”
In general, the Balinese bridal tradition consists of three different levels: nista (low), madya (middle), and payas agung (the highest level). The different levels are adjusted to the needs of the ritual and the financial capability of the newlyweds. The higher the level the more complete the accessories used and the more expensive is the cost. The other unique thing about the Balinese
bridal tradition is that there is a twist in every region in Bali, as the richness of diversity is shown in the fabric and accessories used by the groom and the bride. Despite all the differences, every
single part of the Balinese bridal tradition is believed by society to be a prayer, a code that is transmitted to the universe to reach the aim of holy matrimony, that is… a happy family.
Balinese Symbol of Life
Many people do not know nor realize what is behind the Balinese bridal tradition. Some might think that to have a Balinese bridal tradition is to show how strong your financial capability is. Some might think that it is too expensive to do it, so that a complete form of Balinese bridal tradition only belongs to rich people. A complete series of Balinese bridal tradition is actually a symbol of life.
Each part of the accessories and make up worn by the newly weds has its own meaning. Only a very small number of people truly understand that what the groom and the bride have on during
the wedding represents every single thing that they wish to have during their married life in the future.
In general, a Balinese bridal tradition consists of three different parts: top, middle, and bottom.
At the top part (head) of the bride there will be:
- Bungan sandat emas (artificial gold flowers); represents beauty.
- Petitis (a gold head band on the bride’s head); represents gratitude to the universe for its beautiful life.
- Srinata (black painting on the bride’s head); a symbol of maturity so that the bride will be ready to face the life ahead.
- A fresh red rose; represents the female sex
- A fresh white and yellow cempaka flower and ylang-ylang flower; represent the three gods in Hindu belief – Brahma (the God of creation), Wisnu (The God of Protection) and Siva (the God of Balance)
- Gecek barak; the tiny red dot on the bride’s forehead represents the holy spirit of the bride.
While on the top part of the groom, he will have a gelungan emas (a beautifully carved gold crown) as a symbol that the groom will be the leader of the family.
At the middle part (body), the bride and the groom will be dressed in a traditional fabric called the kamen prada (a cotton fabric with a beautifully patterned gold print).
And on the bottom part (hands) are the accessories. Placed on the wrists of the groom and the bride are bracelets called gelang kana and gelang naga satru.
These bracelets represent the knot they have tied for their future, so they will realize that they are always together when facing all the ups and downs of life.
A Keris (traditional Balinese sword) will be given to the groom as a symbol of the monogamous relationship they will have for the rest of their life. The sword is placed in an identical cover, representing that the groom only belongs to one person, which is the bride.
In the past, during the period of feudalism in Bali, the highest level of Balinese bridal tradition “Payas Agung” could only be worn by the highest levels of the Balinese caste system, which are the Brahmana (priest clan), the Ksatria (the king’s clan), and the Wesya (the business clan), while for the Sudra (ordinary people) they could only wear the payas madya (middle level) and payas nista (low level). As time goes by, now people in Bali can choose any among the three for their wedding day. And at the moment, people from outside Bali can now have a chance to wear Balinese bridal traditions on their wedding day.