The Marriage Obsession in Balinese Culture

Balinese will find it hard to understand why some foreigners decide to stay single until 30 or 40 years old, when not until death. In Balinese eyes marriage is the most important thing, which should be done as soon as possible.

Siwa is the supreme God in Bali. He is in Himself all the gods and goddesses, all the natural forces. Siwa is hermaphrodite (wandu) because He is driven by both male and female energy; He represents the perfect unity of the universe.

Balinese boys and girls must become one entity by the sacred union of marriage, to imitate Siwa. Founding a family is the way to respect the ancestors and the God, and a must to do to be considered as an adult by the community. Yet having a child (a boy if possible) is the ultimate goal of marriage and it should happen quickly. Often Balinese will wait for the girl to be pregnant to celebrate their wedding. Sterility is a big taboo in Bali. An unfertile woman will usually allow her husband to have a second wife and often choose and introduce herself the new wife to him. A Balinese man can divorce from his wife if she can not give him children. What is happening when it is the husband who is sterile is not clear… Sometimes a neighbor or a relative may give them one child who will be raised as their own.

Getting married as soon as possible is the first big step to fulfill your duty in front of God, ancestors, parents and community, but as said before, having a son is the only way to complete the duty. Why a boy? Well, when a daughter gets married she becomes part of her husband family and will usually not be able to care for her parents in their old age. She will as well not be given any heritage. We can say that a girl, when she gets married, is getting “out” of her own family and joins a new one. She will usually only meet her parents at big events like religious ceremonies (Galungan, cremation…).

Only a boy is in position to get heritage from his parents, live in their familial compound and care for them. The first boy will be the one with the biggest responsibility, he is the one who will have to organize the funerals, assure that the parents, after their death, will be able to reincarnate and not wander around as hopeless spirits, he is as well the one who will get most of the heritage. If parents only have daughters they are very confused. The only solution is to bring into the familial compound a boy, getting married to one of their girls. This is risky for the parents because this son in law will be in position to get the heritage and the reason why he will marry their daughter might not be without material consideration. On the other side the son in law who has to live with the parents of his wife is in an embarrassing situation. Power struggle between him and the father in law, mutual suspicion, often occurs and is the origin of many sad familial stories.

Balinese parents may have as many children as needed until they get a son. But sometimes, after getting 4 or 5 daughters, they surrender. Well, many Balinese parents will be sad not to get a daughter as well, and some try hard to get one, after several births of sons, maybe because boys, usually spoiled children, are expected to give them many hard times. Daughters are behaving much nicer towards parents, and what can be more beautiful in this world then a little girl learning traditional Balinese dance? Young girls are indeed considered to be the preferred medium by the Gods to get in contact with the human community. During religious events, the Gods will enter into the pure body and soul of the young girls, and express through their dancing the fascinating beauty of the invisible world.

See also: Photos of Balinese Wedding Ceremony

[ Back to Encyclopedia ]

Home | About Us | Destinations | Activities | Our Customize Tour | Hotel Selection | Photo Gallery | Culture & History | Travel Tips
Our Team | Terms and Conditions | Testimonials | Contact Us | Links