Entry Title: "Cremation in Bali"
Name: Paul A Thompson , Australia
Category and Expertise: Deeper Perspective, Non-Professional
Entry Description: This series of photos was taken whilst I was living in Bali, with my Balinese wife.
We had learned of the passing of a family member – a great aunt. The cremation would take place the following day, and so with very little daylight left we set out to Singaraja, Bali’s second largest city. Given the small size of the island, it takes an inordinate amount of time to get just about anywhere. This is especially true when having to traverse the mountains which divide the North and South of Bali.
Story: Cremation in Bali
Family members and village elders burn incense and look on as the body is loaded onto the bade (cremation tower). Final preparations are made before the procession gets underway: A young boy, like a jockey mounting his steed climbs atop the bade; and the Gamelan orchestra, which has been playing for much of the morning, becomes mobile.
Far from the somber tone associated with funeral processions in ‘Western’ cultures, the low-key, contemplative mood that prevailed in the morning soon gives way to a raucous, festive atmosphere. In order to ensure that the deceased’s spirit does not dwell in the Earthly realm, certain precautions must be undertaken in order to confuse the spirit as to its current whereabouts before it can move on. The almost hypnotic sound of the Gamelan takes on a frenetic quality in concert with the chaos that breaks out on a given signal: The bade is tipped from side-to-side and spun around in circles, while the ‘jockey’ hangs on for grim-life, all to the sound of uproarious cheering and laughter. These scenes are repeated several times along the way, before a last minute dash as the cremation ground approaches.
A bountiful array of offerings, liberal quantities of holy water, along with prayers from priests and the congregation help prepare the way for the deceased’s spirit. The idea of cremation is to return the body to Panca Maha Bhuta (the five elements) consisting of; pertivvi (earth), apah (water), teja (fire), bayu (air), and akasa (ether).
The shade of a tree provides refuge from the midday sun, while the flames of the funeral pyre add to the oppressive heat. One ‘door’ closes as another opens: The spirit ascends to another realm.
R.I.P. Ketut Bagianing 1933-2011