During July and August it is time for ‘Mepandes’ the Balinese tooth-filing ceremony. According to Balinese Hindus the ceremony will rid them of negative traits and as teeth are the symbol of lust, greed, anger, insobriety, confusion and jealousy. Therefore filing the front 6 teeth flat renders someone both more physically and more spiritually beautiful, as well as symbolising transition from adolescent to adulthood.
The filer is a member of the highest caste, the Brahmin (priest). They are known as Sangging, and use simple tools to conduct their work – a file, a small hammer, and a carver. These are purified with holy water prior to the ceremony by a priest. The person having their teeth filed must remain in indoors for the whole day prior to the ceremony, in order to remain protected as they are still considered immature, prior to the ceremony, they are particularly vulnerable to the influence of evil spirits.
Ceremonies are usually held between 4.00 am to 6.00 am, before sun rise, and are accompanied by religious songs. After the tooth filing ceremony, the teenager is then considered to be a mature adult.