Witness a Cremation Ceremony
On our families recent trip to Bali it just so happened that we were in Ubud and got to witness a cremation. We had heard of these ceremonies, but never thought that we would actually be able to see or attend one.
The cremation ceremony is a sacred rite of passage in Bali. It is a time for celebration and a time for the deceased’s body to be burned and set free from its worldly ties. It is the most important ceremony and celebrated stage in a person’s life and no expense is spared. We were told that sometimes it can take years after a person’s death for a cremation to take place. Poorer families have to save money over time to be able to pay for the ceremony and they often have mass cremations together. The bodies are temporarily buried until the designated day arrives.
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We arrived in town to a mass of people dressed in traditional ceremonial clothing. Bands were playing and people carried ornate offerings on their heads and others walked through the crowd selling sarongs.
Soon the procession appeared at the end of the street and the ceremony began. It was led by a massive white sacred cow carried by dozens of men in sarongs. The white cow is a work of art expertly made from wood, wire and paper-mâché. The crowd fell into place and the procession grew. Hundreds of people filled the street.
The Balinese music played, and the atmosphere was festive and exciting. The high tower containing the body followed. It was resting on giant bamboo poles being carried by dozens of men. At this point we joined the procession following it all the way to the temple where the actual ceremony would take place.
Wreaths were displayed in front of the altar and the body was transferred from the tower to be burned inside the statue of the white cow. We could not see exactly what was happening. After a wait and some anticipation, quite suddenly and silently the fire was lit. The Sacred cow was engulfed in flames and I realized that the cremation was taking place.
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The band played on and people cheered as the cremation ceremony came slowly to an end. It was yet another surreal experience in our Bali adventure. It was one of those unforgettable memories where you just happened to be in the right place at the right time.
However it really was a spectacular sight and awesome to see how death can be about celebration and happiness not just about grieving. A cremation ceremony in Bali showed me that life is worth celebrating. I understand we all have to die one day, and that we should pay tribute to a life lived, not just mourn over a life lost.
An experience that this family will never forget……