A Travellerspoint blog

BLOG: Arrive home

Despite our apprehension, we're really glad to have experienced something so unique to Bali. Since our return to New Zealand, we've met former residents of Bali who confirm that they truly do not view foreigners as an intrusion at a cremation. Let's hope this is true ... I am confident we haven't crossed that fine line of learning about their culture, into just being curious tourists.

If you visit Bali, this may be a very personal decision you'll have to make ... you may even be fortunate to witness an elaborate cremation of a dignitary, complete with a multi-storeyed funeral tower and ornate paper cover for the coffin in the form of a bull. Or even better a mass cremation during the cremation season ... around August each year.

Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

BLOG: Excursion and "What is art?"

View 2000 Bali (and Balinese cremation) on alexchan's travel map.

We hired a car and driver for an excursion around the south and centre of the island:

* Batubulan for a Barong performance
* Craft shops where batik, silver and paintings were being crafted
* Tirta Empul pool at Gunung Kawi
* Rice Terraces at Tenglallang
* Ubud and the Monkey Forest.

When in Bali [Bali-travel-guide-1319242] (or Phuket) you really have to ask yourself what "art" really is. You see highly skilled craftsmen churning out large numbers of beautiful works ... some original, some reproduction ... whatever the customer requires (eg. Monet, Mona Lisa etc). Is something "art" because of the aesthetics, conception, creativity or skill?

Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

BLOG: The procession and cremation

View 2000 Bali (and Balinese cremation) on alexchan's travel map.

large_5550_1166128902783.jpgThe bade (funeral tower on which the body is transported) is only ceremonial; it is not burnt. The pyre is in the background where the smoke is. (Scanned photo, apologies for poor quality).

At midday the crowd organised themselves into formation outside the house. Family members carried the coffin out of the house and loaded it on to the funeral tower. The procession was led by the angklung orchestra with its percussive yet delicate tones. Immediately behind was the procession of people carrying a white banner (lancingan) over their heads, symbolizing their participation in carrying the funeral tower behind them. The tower and body is then followed by the gamelan orchestra.

At the first junction, the platform was spun and tilted wildly to disorientate the spirit so that it would not return home. This little frenzy is quite exciting as the eldest son of the deceased was on the tower with the body, and had to hang on tight.large_5550_11661290644229.jpgProcession carrying the lancingan or white banner. (Scanned photo, apologies for poor quality). And let's not forget the need to dodge low power lines! All through this, there was plenty of holy water sprinkled all around to dowse the crowd.

At the cremation site, the body was put on the pyre and again lots of holy water. Everyone was invited to view the body and take group photos! This (and the visit to the home of the deceased) represented the height of our discomfort with the whole experience. Throughout, we felt very intrusive as these were what we'd consider a very private family moments. Our apprehensions were not entirely put to rest despite assurances from many locals. It did help that most of the village was there rather than just their family.

The fire was started up ceremonially, then augmented with several gas burners with household gas cylinders attached. The deed was done in less than an hour ...with men gambling in the adjacent clearing, children playing and others eating, chatting and generally catching up.


Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

BLOG: Background to the Balinese cremation

View 2000 Bali (and Balinese cremation) on alexchan's travel map.

I had heard and read about the traditional Bali [Bali-travel-guide-1319242]nese cremation since I was a child. I had seen pictures of elaborate, mass cremations on festival dates. So, upon arrival in Bali, I kept my eyes open to such opportunities.

Here's a bit of background ...

Balinese have been Hindus for centuries. Because of their isolation in the world's most populous Muslim nation, their rites and customs have evolved independently from those in India. Their cremation ceremony takes three variations:

* cremation of the recently deceased,
* cremation of an exhumed body or
* cremation of an image (effigy) of a long-deceased person.

Our understanding is that the second and third forms exist for two reasons. There are special auspicious dates for cremation, and among these dates, some are even more auspicious than others. Secondly, the ceremony is quite elaborate involving many guests from afar, with the host family responsible for food etc. Delaying the cremation allows the family to save up so that they can fulfil their obligation with grandeur and utmost hospitality.

Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Indonesia Comments (0)

BLOG: Leave home

View 2000 Bali (and Balinese cremation) on alexchan's travel map.

For a change, we were going on a "normal" holiday ... we'd be like most people and go to Bali for sun, sand, surf, great shopping and cheap eats.Maybecomplement this with a dose of culture by attending a barong or kecak dance performance.

But as it turned out, we had the opportunity for something different and arguably inappropriate by attending a Balinese cremation known locally as ngaben.

Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

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