The Day of Tumpek Wayang
Balinese believe that every baby born on the day of Tumpek Wayang requires a special ritual to save them them from a deity. But what is the story behind this ritual actually?
When my unborn baby reached nine months old, we were busy at guessing at when it would arrive. As any Balinese would do for estimating the ‘good day’ and its effects on the newborn, we opened up the Balinese calendar just for kicks.
As I looked at the day that became the estimate of the date of his birth, it was with joy as it was already near. Yet it was different for my mother. She seemed so nervous and apprehensive for it was on Saturday of the Balinese week, or wuku Wayang.
A ‘Saniscara Kliwon Wuku Wayang’ day to the Balinese is celebrated as Tumpek Wayang. This month it will fall on the 26th.
It is a holy day that is meant for the blessings of art forms and artistic items including traditional shadow puppets called wayang.
“Hopefully this child won’t be born on the Tumpek Wayang because it is not a good day for births,” uttered my mother.
This is not without reason, for among the Balinese there is a belief that from being born on this day you would be constantly pestered by Bhatara Kala, a malevolent deity, and die at a young age. This is even written down in literature that has become life manuals among the Balinese.
The God Shiva and his consort, Dewi or the Goddess Uma, were on a journey together. Accidentally the goddess’ garment lifted and Shiva became aroused, which resulted in a drop of semen falling down into the water.
The God Vishnu, the Lord of Water, soon identified that this was no ordinary semen. He summoned a mantra so that the semen would not go to waste and could be brought to life.
This resulted in the birth of a huge being with a horrendous face, like that of a raksasa or giant. Not only was his build like that of a giant, so were his antics. He ate plants, fish, animals and even humans.
The God Vishnu then told him of his origins and suggested that the giant go to meet Shiva, its father. The giant’s presence was shocking, both his physique and behavior. As a descendent of a god, this giant was named Bhatara Kala, so his fangs had to be cut and he was then restrained from eating indiscriminately. Thus he was only allowed to eat humans who were born on Tumpek Wayang.
Unfortunately his own younger brother Bhatara Kumara was born on a Tumpek Wayang. So it was his brother who he had to chase down for his next meal. The God Shiva tried to help so that Bhatara Kumara could not be caught. Thus as evening fell Bhatara Kala still could not catch his brother. Exhausted and starved he sighted an offering nearby so he ate it all up.
Apparently the offering was meant to be offered by a puppeteer or a dalang before his wayang performance. He was set aback and didn’t welcome such behavior, so he asked Bhatara Kala to throw up the offering. After some negotiation a deal was decided between them. Bhatara Kala did not have to throw up the offering as long as he stopped pursuing children born on Tumpek Wayang. That is why children born on this specific day require a Sapuh Leger ritual to be done for them.
This ritual is a purification observance or act of redemption. Preparations for the ritual can be quite a challenge; therefore births on Tumpek Wayang are to be avoided, as the hungry Bhatara Kala would pursue the child before the ritual was concluded.
But believe it or not, Bhatara Kala always lurks around the corner. He follows each and everyone even though they are not born on Tumpek Wayang. He follows every movement of each living being from their birth to their death.
Essentially he is not just a myth but a reality. Bhatara Kala in Hindu terminology is depicted as a deity with the build of a ferocious giant that can crush everything in front of him without mercy.
Kala comes from the Sanskrit word that has become part of the Indonesian vocabulary meaning ‘time’. Time does not compromise. Everyone only has 24 hours in each day. These days cannot be repeated and humans can never be able to create a time machine to travel back to the past. This reminds us to always appreciate time.
Bhatara Kala did indeed vow not to devour children born on Tumpek Wayang, but we must remember about his nature. He was born as a keeper of time, to remind all that time is so precious. Don’t let time be wasted because
times past cannot be relived. Thus the western saying of, “time is money.”
When Tumpek Wayang passed by and my water did not break, it was as though the whole family sighed with relief. At least they did not need to think about the preparations for such an elaborate ritual as the Sapuh Leger and not to worry that the child would be pursued by Bhatara Kala. I was happy to see that they were all happy although knowing that there was nothing to be pursued but time.
Text by Ni Luh Dian Purniawati
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Posted by » Bali and Beyond Magazine