A Big Colourful Day Out at.......a Cremation
Trip Start Jan 31, 2011
297Trip End Dec 15, 2011
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I had rented a bike so I drove myself but Wayan took Jo as a passenger and off we went to Tagalalan to see the Cremation.
How it works is that every couple of years there is a village cremation where about 15-20 deceased will be cremated all at once. This wasn't a big sad woeful affair at all. We started on the main road where there was a big parade down the street of highly decorated animals - bulls, lions, and boxes, all carried on a bamboo structure by tens of people who walked these structures down to the cemetery with music and shouting and spinning them around in the street (you'll have to watch some of my YouTube Videos for this when I get them up)
It sounded like it would be a Viking style pyre, so I was fascinated to see how the day would go on.
Once in the cemetery they built frames around the animals and put kindling underneath.
They then started to dig up the bodies from the ground - the family owns a plot and buries the dead person until the next cremation, which in the case of some people was 3 years ago, but some may have only been a month or so ago, so the bodies would be coming up in various states. I had no idea if they would be in wood coffins or anything, but it seemed not - they were buried in cloth wrapped round them. The few I saw were mostly bones, but one had leathery decomposed skin and smelt really bad when it was opened up. They washed the bones and gathered them in a basket before putting them inside the animals or boxes that had been paraded down the street, which would later be set alight. When the bodies came out there would be great cheers first of all as the body was reached in the ground and secondly as people (and I'm talking family members here!) found rings or coins and kept them. After the bodies had been brought up, and assembled inside the parade animal there was a long wait whilst the holy men went round and did something, well, holy. During my hovering around I got chatting to a girl called Nami who's grandma who died 3 years earlier was being cremated today, so I was able to follow their particular scenario all the way through whilst she told me what was going on
In the meantime we went further up the road to see the rice terraces, as there would be another couple of hours before the lighting of the fires would happen. As you can see from the photos the rice terraces were amazing! Unfortunately it was pretty cloudy today and had been spitting a bit so the photos aren't as brilliantly stunning as they should be! So I will have to go back I think! We had a coffee whilst gazing out, then an hour and half later went back to the cemetery.
We arrived just in time for the fires to be lit. Unlike bonfire night at home, there was no firebrigade and in fact some of the setups were distinctly unstable looking - but no one was in the least bit worried about fiery bits of heads dropping off - which happened, nor worried by the bunsen burner style jet flame shooting out of a couple of gas pipes aimed directly at the animals (presumably for newer bodies?) these weren't even fixed into place, so if they fell off the precarious proppage there could be some really serious damage done to someone, even an additional death! So, surrounded by about 15 blazing animals and 15 deep person-sized pits, everything was pretty hazardous (lucky I have eyes that have saved me all this time from falling into holes in the many countries that don't observe stringent health and safety rules - it's amazing I'm still alive!) I watched as the families then lit up a batch of incense
I chatted with Nami further and we arranged to go out tomorrow - she's going to show me around some more, which I'm very much looking forward to.
Once I got back to Ubud I found a little place to sit in for the last 4 hours to update my blog, have some dinner and enjoy some live music.
It's clear that here death and funerals are not sad affairs, there is much celebration as the cremation takes the persons soul to paradise, so today was a good day.
It is also clear that everything happens for a reason. The reason I didn't find anything in Sanur was because I was meant to come to Ubud, find Sean and come to this rare event. How lucky I am.
Best: A fascinating and unexpected day
Worst: It rained!
Beautiful: the rice terraces