BALI CULTURE INFORMATION

 

 
 
The Island Of Bali, Indonesia

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THE CREMATION

Meantime the women, unconcerned with the pranks of the men, rush to the cremation place in a disorderly stampede, quite in contrast with the solemn procession of the day before. Instead of silks and gold, they wear ordinary clothes and most of them go with uncovered breasts. They carry the accessories, offerings, and the pots of holy water. The decaying evilspirit offerings that lay for days near the corpses are piled up on bamboo stretchers and rushed to the cemetery, followed by hordes of hungry dogs that fight for the rotten food that falls on the ground.

Although there is no organization committee, the procession is soon under way. The orchestras that have played incessantly since the day before march at the head of the parade followed by the spear-bearers, the baris dancers, and the men who carry the cows; then come the women with the effigies, then the towers and the bridges, carried bv a wild mob of half-naked, shouting men who deliberately choose the most difficult paths, falling into ditches and splashing each other with mud, almost toppling the towers over, and whirling them to further mislead the dead.

The high priest rides in a dignified and mystic attitude amidst all this hullabaloo. Each tower is led to the cemetery by a long rope tied at one end to the platform where the corpses are fastened, the other end held by the hands of relatives. This rope has a special significance, and J in cremations of members of the royal family, the descendants of the Dewa Agung of Klungkung, it takes the shape of a great serpent that serves as a vehicle for the souls. The noisy procession dashes along in disorderly fashion, raising clouds of dust, accompanied by fireworks and war music, until it reaches the cemetery, just outside the village.

There the cows are placed on the bale pabasmian, the cremation pavilions, their final destination; a canopy of new white cloth, a " sky," is stretched under the paper and tinsel roof directly over the funeral pyre, and detachments from the procession walk three times around the pavilions to do them honour. The bridge is placed against the tower and men run up the runway while the attendant who rode on the tower releases two small chickens that were tied by the feet to the posts of the stage where the bodies are fastened. They are used as a substitute for the doves that in olden times were released by the widows that were sacrificed and cremated with the corpse of a prince. Their significance was probably symbolic, although the Balinese now say that they are only " to teach the soul how to fly. This may be a typical tongue-in-cheek Balinese answer to dodge a complicated explanation for outsiders.

The remains are then handed down by the men lined along the runway until they reach the ground. Each group carrying a corpse is attacked again by another party of yelling men who aim to take the body by force in fierce hand-to-hand battles. Clothes are torn to shreds and men are trampled upon until the victorious party makes away with the corpse. Meantime women attendants spread the kadjang, the long white shroud which they hold stretched over their heads, attaching one end of the cloth to the corpse, held up high by as many hands as its length permits.

Thus led by the kadjang, the body is taken to the coffin, now opened by lifting the lid that forms the back of the animal, and the corpse is placed inside. Relatives crowd around it to supervise the last details and have a last look at the body, which they expose by cutting the many bindings with a special knife inscribed with magic syllables.

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