In Balinese, a placenta is called ari-ari which derives from the word ari meaning ‘younger sibling’. Balinese Hindus believe that while babies are in the womb until they are born, they are accompanied and protected by these ari-ari, of which there are four:
Bhuta Nyom (amniotic fluid)
Bhuta Rah (blood)
Bhuta Ari-ari (placenta)
Bhuta Tabunan (belly button)
These four siblings help the baby leave the womb by way of the vagina (known in Balinese as goa garbha) safely and healthily.
Since these four elements are considered so crucial, the way they are treated is also important. First of all, the placenta is cleaned and placed in a young empty coconut or a clay pot. Then, the ongkara symbol is inscribed on the lid and the ahkara symbol on the base of the vessel – these are both godly symbols in Hindu philosophy. After this, plant thorns (such as eggplant, rose or pandanus), betel nut and leaves are placed in it. Then, the vessel is wrapped in coconut fibre (ijuk) or white material and if the baby is a boy, the family buries it on the right of the side of the house entrance or door (looking outwards); the opposite is performed if the baby is a girl. If the mother doesn’t live in her own house or family compound, she can also choose to have the placenta thrown in the ocean. When the placenta is buried or thrown into the sea, a mantra is recited, praying for longevity. After burying the placenta and reciting the mantra, the hole is covered with earth and black stones. Then a thorny pandanus bush is planted on the site to protect it from animals and evil spirits.
A ceremony now takes place including offerings of white rice, salt, ginger, yellow turmeric rice, red shallot rice, and black charcoal rice. Over 42 days an incense stick or a candle is lit and placed on the site. Normally, whenever the baby is washed, fed or blessed, the ari-ari are also washed fed and blessed. They are considered a real part of the baby’s life.
Copyright@ Kulture Kid 2005
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