BALI CULTURE INFORMATION

 

 
 
The Island Of Bali, Indonesia

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THE BODY

To the Balinese only the soul is really important, the body being simply an unclean object to be got rid of, about which there is no hysteria. Details which would be considered weird and shocking elsewhere are regarded naturally and with great indifference. I have seen a corpse poked, to help it burn, by relatives who were making loud jokes and scolding the body because it would not burn quickly enough, so they could go home.

When a man dies, his relatives, near and far, are expected to assemble and bring presents of food to the immediate family of the deceased. It is believed that the ghost of the dead man will bring them bad luck if they are not informed within three days. Automatically all relatives of the dead man become impure, sebel, and cannot enter the temples until the complete purification rites have been performed. This impurity extends to the house and even to the entire village, and the higher the position of the dead one, the greater the degree of uncleanliness of the village.

A sign of death in a house is the lamp called damar kurung, with a white cloth, and an egg is rolled all over the body to signify its newly acquired purity. The corpse is next wrapped in many yards of white cloth, in a straw mat, and again in more yards of cloth, and finally bound tightly on the rante, an external covering of split bamboo tied with rattan.

If the corpse is to be buried and not mummified, it is taken to the cemetery with music, accompanied by singing relatives, who carry offerings and bamboo tubes with holy water. Before lowering the body into the shallow grave, the offerings are dedicated to Mother Earth, a prayer is recited, and money is thrown in to pay for the ground used. The corpse is laid in the grave with an open bamboo tube in the place of the mouth to let the soul out, the grave is filled, and a bamboo structure with a roof of white tissue paper is erected over it.

A small altar of bamboo is placed next to the grave for offerings, brought daily for a period of twelve days. Offerings are brought again forty-two days after the date of death, when it is considered that the soul has been completely detached from the body and the cremation can take place, provided there is money available; otherwise it has to be postponed until means are obtained, often years later.

The high priest is next consulted to determine the propitious day on which to hold the cremation - a date far enough in advance to allow for the elaborate preparations. A few days before the date named, the relatives start for the cemetery to dig up the remains. The grave is opened and the body removed or as much of the body as remains after an interment which lasts from a month and seven days to even two years and longer.

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