BALI CULTURE INFORMATION

 

 
 
The Island Of Bali, Indonesia

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THE SACRIFICE OF WIDOWS

However shocking this practice may seem to us, it is not difficult to understand why it was acceptable to the Balinese; the scriptures not only sanctioned it, but even encouraged the sacrifices, and to the victims it was a short cut to attain the higher spiritual state ever so much more important than their insignificant physical life on this earth. Both the early Dutch narrative and Friederich make it clear that no compulsion was used and that the women to be sacrificed 1-tad to make their decision by the eighth day after their husband's death. They could neither withdraw nor volunteer later.

The Dutch did all that was in their power to stamp out this practice and set a strict prohibition on widow-sacrifices. The last official cremation in which a woman was burned took place just after the conquest of South Bali; we were present, however, at a cremation in Sukawati at which we were told by a reliable in former that the noble wife of the deceased prince had died conveniently in a mysterious manner three days before the cremation in order to be burned together with her husband.

Despite the Dutch claim of having suppressed widow-sacrifices, it seems that the custom was already dying out, like many other extravagant practices that became too costly. Nearly one hundred years ago, during two years' residence in the island, Friederich witnessed only one case of widow-burning, that which he describes.

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