Bali Cremation Ceremony
Ubud, Bali (Indonesia) - July 16, 2008
We’ve been spending the majority of our time in Bali relaxing. It’s been pretty great. Especially after our recent educational overload of Laos, Vietnam & Cambodia history. We decided however (both for our own mental health and cultural interest), that we should do something a little different than just sit on the tourist trap beach for two weeks straight. Thus we have now come to Ubud, a little artist town centre and I think the capital of the island.
It turns out it’s perfect timing - a huge cremation ceremony for the 1st son of the 10th son of the last king of Bali (or something like that) along with several others, was set to take place on our last day of our Ubud stay. The fact that the cute little bungalow we rented for next to nothing was then abruptly taken away from us without warning (we figure the owner decided she could get more money from someone else in this time of festivity) was a little unpleasant, but other than that our time here has been very interesting. We found ourselves a new place to stay (with great difficulty, because every local who possibly can is coming to the ceremony and everything is full) and have started frequenting a delicious organic food restaurant.
Today we saw the ceremony, and for that the photos/video I took is required. It was pretty insane. To begin with, 4 immense statues had been created. 2 bulls, 1 dragon, 1 phoenix. The bulls were about 25 metres high, the dragon and phoenix about twice the size. Absolutely massive. The dead bodies were apparently put into the bulls, which were then burned. Prior to this burning, there was a long 1.2 km procession through which these 4 structures were carried. No, they were not wheeled, driven, or otherwise transported. 6000 men on rotation carried these immense pieces on their shoulders. It was pretty crazy. We waited 2 hours in brilliant sunshine, packed in like little sardines on the streets, but I think it was worth it. There was a very old-world feeling to the whole ceremony, and not only because we’d been requested to wear the traditional sarong. The masses of people were unlike any crowd I’ve been in, perhaps because I’ve never seen so many people gathered for a death with such a sense of festivity. The streets were jam-packed, to the point that there were police officers who remained 10 feet in front of each structure in order to force people back onto the sidewalks and further. The structures were so large, including their carriers, that they took up the entire street including the edges of the sidewalks. Every time one of the structures would make it’s way up, the crowd would swell back, pressed against the building walls as tightly as possible. Hard to describe, but I’ll try to post some of the video clips if possible!