Tuesday, July 27, 2010

June 29, 2010 Ubud to Manggis: The Cremation

July is the cremation season in Bali. Typically when someone dies, he or she is buried. When the village or collection of villages has saved enough money to stage a cremation, the bones of the deceased are dug up, wrapped in various ways and carried in procession to the cremation site.
At the site, paper animals of various sorts are waiting under the palm trees to hold the bones and offerings.

Gamelan music from two groups envelopes the area in sound.
Families mill about holding photographs of the deceased, spreading out picnics, and having a good time. Ultimately the bones are burned. This simple description in no way conveys the magnificently beautiful chaos of the festival. And it is a festival. The burning of the bones allows the spirit of the deceased to reincarnate in another family member so there is good reason to celebrate.

In order to attend, we had to garb ourselves appropriately. There were several purveyors on hand more than willing to wrap sarongs around us (long pieces of brightly-colored cotton fabric), tie them in place with silky sashes and give Ben the suitable head gear. While we didn’t exactly fit in, we were mostly ignored in a very pleasant sort of way. Inclusion is a basic tenet of the Balinese culture and we were included with absolutely no fuss or bother.

We wandered around for several hours, watching, listening, wondering when something was going to happen. Just like everyone else. Because we were on the way to our next hotel and had several more hours to drive, we left before the burning which apparently isn’t as dramatic as we had imagined. More like a smoldering than a conflagration. Still we were sorry to miss it.

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