A Balinese Royal Cremation Ceremony

Documents328The 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!

Documents327The 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.

The Bade

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!

If you enjoyed this post you might like to read:

The Balinese Priest’s Bell

Petulu’s Sacred Herons

My memoirΒ “Watching the Daisies”Β includes many other travel adventures to India, Rome, Morocco, Lourdes…


38 thoughts on “A Balinese Royal Cremation Ceremony

  1. Gorgeous photos of an incredible ceremony in a stunning location. How fortunate you are to have experienced it – and we are that you share it with us. Thank you.
    xx,
    mgh
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMORE dot com)
    ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder
    “It takes a village to educate a world!”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for sharing this experience with us Brigid. So many cultural differences across the world aren’t there? And that’s what makes travel and blogging so awesome…we can learn about it. Great post thank you πŸ’πŸŒŸ

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s