BALI CULTURE INFORMATION

 

 
 
The Island Of Bali, Indonesia

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DEATH AND CREMATION

The extraordinary decision to cremate a man of high caste immediately became possible only because the festival that the community was preparing for, their greatest in a decade, could not have taken place had there been an important uncremated corpse in the village. The family was in difficult financial circumstances and they welcomed the decision.

A Brahmanic priest is essential to a proper cremation, and only the destitute would call upon a lesser priest. The quality of the ceremonies the priest performs is determined by the fee paid to him. There is a choice of three kinds of cremation: utama, the highest, costing an average of fifty dollars in fees for the priest alone; madia, the medium-class cremation, for about twenty-five dollars; and nista, the low, for about five dollars. The rites for each are about the same, the difference consisting in the quality and power of the magic formulas and symbols and the sort of holy water used, the credentials given by the priest to the soul entering heaven, and the more or less thorough purification of the soul.

It is always a good resource, in a great cremation of a prince, to provide a retinue of souls for his trip into the beyond and to profit at the same time by the magical and social advantages of a more elegant cremation. In Krobokan we witnessed the release of two hundred and fifty souls of commoners who accompanied a member of the royal family. It is of extreme importance, however, to keep within the rules prescribed for each caste, the breach of which would bring dreadful punishment upon guilty relatives who in their craving for ostentation should use rites or materials for the accessories allotted to a higher caste.

These rules are at times infringed and it becomes the source of malicious gossip if a family use a cow instead of a lion to burn their deceased, or if they have more roofs in their tower than is their right. In a few cases the right of cremation is denied, as in the death of exiles from the island. Lepers are buried in hidden places and their redemption is carried out by pious persons, secretly and through an effigy.

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