Burning Bodies in Bali
There are no cemeteries in Bali, everyone is cremated
practice Indian Hinduism. Maybe a thousand years ago they did, but
the mixture of animism and Hinduism evolving in the isolation that
a Hindu island feels in a Muslim country, puts a intricate spin on the
original belief. One of the practices that survived, albeit with a
Balinese twist, is the cremation ceremony.
be Hindu, is to believe in reincarnation, or the ‘recycling’
of the soul through many life forms and life times. All living
things have a ranking in a hierarchy of purity, with the bull just below
humans. After humans, if your really good, is the convergence of
your soul with the eternal life force, their version of heaven.
Now the soul, when it is in a human body, needs to be released after
death, so it may continue the journey to the next life. The
Hindu’s release the soul through cremation, and in Bali, it is an
amazing, joyful event. It is considered a joyful event because the
soul is released from the pain of this life, and is in transition
to better existence. Tourists are allowed, and to a small degree,
encouraged to attend. Our noise and confusion adds to the
commotion the Balinese try to create so the soul cannot find its way
back to the house it lived in.
This is the tower, quite ornate. Note the spinning action
and the body shrouded in white.
After someone dies. there is a private ceremony in the person’s home,
to clean the body ad the house of evil. Then the body is lifted
onto a colorful tower where it is draped in a white sheet. The
tower, supported on the backs of many men, is carried from the house to
a field. Along the way, there is music, chanting, and the tower is spun
and twisted to confuse the soul as to its whereabouts.
the tower reaches the field, it is lowered and the body transferred to a
wooden bull. The bull is the carrier of the body through the
actual cremation process. After the body is placed in the bull
with the appropriate ceremony, the bull and the body are set on fire.
A dove is released from a cage, then the cage added to the fire,
to symbolize the release of the soul from the body.
The bull and the body aflame. See the bird
cage in the near corner?
Now the body, bull, and tower are burned to ashes, which are
transported by hand to a river or the ocean. Thus the cycle of
life is complete for the Balinese.