The Royal Cremation Procession
On October 14 2013, a member of the Balinese royal family passed away, giving rise to a special Palebon Agung cremation ceremony. On November 1, I was once again humbly honoured to witness a rare royal cremation procession. The date of November 1 was considered auspicious, although it was only two weeks after the death of Tjokorda Istri Sri Tjandrawati, wife of Tjokorda Gde Putra Sukawati. Normally preparations for royal cremations take several months!
The building of the Bade
In Ubud Palace, I watched many skilled crafts people prepare a huge funeral tower 25 metres high, called a Bade, embellished with an array of colourful scary masks and a cacophony of beautiful patterns. Incidentally, this tower was nine tiers tall – the maximum being eleven tiers, reserved for a ruling king.
I was somewhat apprehensive on the day of the cremation, fearing huge crowds amid 30 degree temperatures. However, my fears dissipated when I found a shady tree to stand under, awaiting the cremation procession. The streets were busy, but there was plenty of space for everyone, including lots of happy family groups. The children’s antics kept me amused as I waited.
The bull sarcophagus
Earlier in the day, the corpse had been placed in the funeral tower at Ubud Palace, in preparation for the route along the main street to the Dalem Puri Royal Cemetery. I also learned that 2000 pallbearers carried it, changing teams every 100 metres. The Bade was preceded by a magnificent, purple, wooden sarcophagus in the shape of a bull, believed to ensure safe passage to the afterlife. The corpse would then be transferred to the sarcophagus at the cemetery , before being set alight by two large flame throwers.
I did not witness this latter part of the poignant proceedings, nor the cleansing and blessing of the remains, before the ashes were scattered off a beach in Sanur. However, I watched in awe as the bull and the Bade slowly made there way towards me, preceded by groups of ladies in traditional dress, men playing an assortment of musical instruments, members of the royal family carried in sedan style chairs, together with a colourful procession of multinational residents and tourists.
As the Bade loomed closer, I was overcome with respect for those who had prepared such a vision – it was GIGANTIC. I also witnessed a fire engine spraying welcome water on the pallbearers, who must have been VERY hot!
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