Friday, September 27, 2013

Cremation Ceremony

These Balinese boys welcomed us and enjoyed posing for photos throughout the day.

I wanted to see a Balinese Cremation ceremony during my visit. I happened to meet Gede at the Balinese Children's project and he told me his village was having a cremation ceremony on Friday. He invited me to attend the service of his father and 23 others. He wrote down the name of his village and then texted me additional information. Gede told me this was a mass cremation. Most of the people had died 3-5 years ago.

On Friday morning, Paula decided to join me for the ceremony and we headed off on my scooter. I had never driven with anyone on the back so this was a new experience. I was cautious, not wanting the service I attended to be my own cremation. We arrived in the village and asked where the cremation was located. We headed west and found a temple with many people. We stopped and asked a fellow about the cremation. Two men carrying a pig on post exited the temple. They had just sliced his neck and blood was squirting. We were told the cremation would be in a week. We left after being given directions to head back a mile and turn right at the curve. We eventually arrived and could see the tower and bulls lined up in the street. 

The entire town came together for the service. The women were dressed in beautiful sarongs and traditional lace shirts with a sash tied at the waist. The men were wearing sarongs and traditional hats. I saw a woman selling fried bananas and stopped for a snack before the procession began. I happened to meet one of the heads of the village. He welcomed me and told me it would be an hour before they would start, they were waiting for another village to arrive.
I found a step to sit and wait for the procession to the cemetery. I watched the people as they waited. Made had explained the strong sense of community to me. The Balinese live most of their lives in the village they were born. Unless they move to a city for work. However, they always return to their village for ceremonies. 
The procession started with young boys carrying flags and followed by women carrying offerings on their heads. And then families of the deceased carrying photos and offerings.
The bulls and dragons were next then the tower carrying the village priest.
A band followed the tower. Then, the second and third villages repeated with towers, bulls and bands. There was excitement as the procession began.

When everyone arrived at the cremation grounds, the families walked around the bulls and dragons with their offerings and sacrificed birds and suckling pigs. The offerings were laid out on a table and prepared for cremation. Priests from each village oversee the ceremony. We waited almost 2 hours for the arrival of purified water and all of the ceremonial steps to be completed. I walked the grounds watching what was going on. Although it was a religious ceremony, people were celebrating. Families brought lunches and had picnics. Others purchased food at the sandwich, satay an donut stands.
I decided to have a donut. I went to take a bite and a man walked up and grabbed it out of my hand. I stared shocked but could tell he was mentally handicapped. Oh well. He wanted a donut. I.did not need it. I later ran into him when he was pleasuring himself. Not something I expected to see at a cremation ceremony but realizing he was mentally challenged, I let it go. 

It was an odd experience. Balloons, ice cream and candy was for sell. 
Men were gambling in the temple and the band was relaxing and enjoying the sense of community.
Children were playing on the towers and running through the fields. 
As I talked to the local villagers, I learned this was a symbolic ceremony. There were no bones/bodies being burned today. After a short rain, everyone started to congregate near the bulls and dragons. 
They lit one on fire and burned the symbolic offerings. One by one each of the bulls and dragons went up in fire. I watched the flames and smoke engulf the area. Everything burned quickly.

We were overcome by the fumes and the smoke. Paula and I decided we had enough and left. It was an interesting experience and insight into the rituals of the Hindu  people. Typically, they would collect the ashes and take them to a river or sea to finalize the ceremony. It was an interesting celebration of life. I liked it and walked away with a smile on my face. The Balinese believe their loved ones will be reincarnated into the next generation and the cycle will continue.

We walked slowly back to our scooter after the cremation ceremony.

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