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Why the Balinese Don’t Need Baby Name Books

Bali’s Customs

Bali has special customs when it comes to naming babies and their caste system.

One of the best parts of having a baby is getting to choose the name, right?  While it may be for us Americans, the Balinese have a special naming system in which only four names are used!

They don’t even get to pick from the four choices, because the Balinese and people of the nearby island of Lombok are given names by birth order.

Bali’s baby-naming system

surf instructor
Surf instructor, Gede.

It’s quite easy to identify first-borns as they are almost all named Wayan.

However, there are a few variations of this name.  If you’re a first-born you could also be named Putu, Gede or Ni Luh (female only), though Wayan is most commonly heard.

Second-borns are named either Made, Kadek or Nengah.

Third-borns are Nyoman or Komang; the fourth-born child is Ketut and only Ketut.

So maybe there aren’t just four names, but Wayan, Made, Nyoman, and Ketut are almost always the choice of names for the first four children.

So what happens if you have a fifth child?  Well, the naming system just starts over.  The fifth child could also be Wayan and the sixth would most likely be Made.

Imagine if the Duggars from the show Nineteen Kids and Counting were Balinese–that would make five Wayans, five Mades, five Nyomans and four Ketuts all under one roof.  How confusing would that be?!

Bali’s caste system

Similar to the Balinese’s Hindu roots, the country has a caste system made up of four separate castes.  To identify members of each caste, a special name is sometimes given to certain individuals.

  • Sudra is the lowest caste, comprised of 90% of the Balinese.
  • Wesya is the next caste made up of mostly merchants and aristocracy.  People in this caste may be given the title Gusti Bagus (male) or Gusti Ayu (female).
  • The third caste, made up of nobles, kings and warriors, is the Ksatria caste.
  • The final and highest caste is the Brahmana caste made up mostly of teachers, priests, writers and philosophers.

Hear that teachers?  You’re ranked higher than kings!

As confusing as this may seem to foreigners, the naming and caste system is completely clear to the people of Bali and helps the Balinese keep track of inheritance questions, as most everything tends to go to the first-born.

So the next time you’re in Bali, don’t think that the locals are completely unoriginal when naming their children.  Instead, think of it as an easy way to keep track of all of your kids!

To learn about Bali’s interesting customs regarding death and burial, read:

Burial, Cremation, and Reincarnation in Bali

Bali customs

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