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The Blessing of Putu Jagger Marcus Nichols

A Balinese Blessing for a Pint-Sized Visitor from Michigan.

(9/23/2003) Leslie Marie Neilson operates a store in Boyne City, Michigan (U.S.A.) called Bali and Beyond that sells only handicrafts and decorative accents produced on the island of Bali. Trained as a micro-biologist, she's put her scientific career on the back Bunsen burner, while she embarks on a second career developing a line of Balinese merchandise for her store and soon to be launched website. First introduced to the charms of Bali and Indonesia over 15 years ago by an Uncle who lives in Bali and edits the Bali Update, Leslie vows that "absolutely nothing" will stop her from her yearly buying trip to Bali to replenish stocks for her store.

It's best to take this lady at her word: some time ago she spent her honeymoon in Bali and this year she packed her husband and infant son Putu onto an airplane, ignoring foreboding travel advisories issued by the U.S. Department of State.

Introducing Putu Jagger Marcus Nichols

Just over two months old when his mother trundled him off on his first trip to Bali, Putu, a name signifying the first-born in Bali and bestowed upon him by his Bali-based Uncle, these three intrepid travelers arrived just in time to undergo a traditional Balinese Tigang Sasih or Nelu Bulanin ceremony to mark the third month of his life.

In accordance with local tradition, Putu's all-important first rite of passage was held at Villa Abian Tirta - his Uncle's home located just north of Sanur.

The Tigang Sasih marks a baby's formal introduction to the world, the very first day on which his or her feet are permitted to touch the earth.

Special offerings or sesajen are prepared and placed on three different levels reflecting the Balinese tripartite cosmos and the commitment to Tri Hita Kirana: the need for man to be in harmony with God, the world, and his fellow man.

A sesajen jejangan comprised of cooked rice, prepared foods, and small leafy plants was used to represent young Putu's entrance into the natural world and the many gifts that nature bestows on man.

A sesajen sambutan containing uncooked grains of rice, coconut and three different colors of thread red, black and white was also prepared. The threads are symbolic of the Hindu trinity of Tri Murti: the red thread signifying our connection to the Creator Brahma; the black thread for Wisnu the Protector; and the white representing Siwa the Perfector who destroys in order that we might rebuild again in our never-ending quest for perfection.

Another offering, symbolizing the child and made from woven strands of palm leaf, heralded the arrival of the five essential elements of soil, water, fire, wind and the atmosphere. These five basic building blocks of the Universe were summoned to unite in the creation of an individual whose muscles will possess the strength of strong wire surrounding bones with the density of good steel.

The sesajen kumara, symbolizing Putu's soul and comprised of two small mounds of cooked rice, were placed to repose in his bed. Another offering, sesajen ari-ari representing Putu's placenta "brother" from whom he was separated at birth was laid at the foot of his bed.

The ceremony began with Paul and Leslie being asked to hold in turn a stone, an egg, charcoal, and a pumpkin representing four spiritual siblings of Putu. The heart of a banana plant, symbolizing the child, was wrapped in cloth and presented with necklaces, bracelets and baubles. These items were sprinkled with holy water and dusted with flour by the attending Priest. The family was then asked to circle around a water container into which money was placed together with Putu's symbolic siblings, later placed at a distance removing the child from any inherited original sins or misdeeds. Before this was done, however, the cloth, necklaces, bracelets and baubles were removed and given to Putu to wear.

Then, newly adorned in his Balinese costume and jewelry, and safe in the arms of his Mother, Leslie, and witnessed by his Father, Paul, baby Putu was sprinkled with sacred waters gathered from a Balinese temple while mantra's spoken in ancient Balinese and dedicated to Surya Raditya - the Sun - were offered for his future safety.

More holy water was then sprinkled on Putu's head, given to him to drink, and washed across his face to ensure that he becomes a man of pure thought, word and deed. To further ensure his purity and future safety, leaves of alang-alang grass, red flowers, and the leaves of the chrysanthemum plant together with the threads of three colors were placed on his head and forehead. Then, Leslie and Paul were similarly blessed, purifying them for the tremendous responsibility of parenthood that lies ahead.

Finally, the Upacara Tigang Sasih for young Putu ended with drinks and food for all those on hand to witness his introduction to the world. And on the menu, of course, some of the food offerings just blessed by the gods.

Judging from the photos accompanying this story at balidiscovery.com, both Putu and his Parents, Paul and Leslie, are most truly blessed.

Putu and his mother.Putu and his parents.

Natab.Offerings.