The Cremation Grounds

As we arrived at the cremation grounds the place was buzzing with activity. Several of the bulls had already arrived and were being positioned under canopies for the final preparations before the cremation. There was quite a mix of tourists and native Balinese, and even a few Balinese vendors wading through the crowds selling cold drinks and snacks. It seemed a very exciting time for Balinese and tourist alike, and there was little friction on either side.

The people in black are either funeral bearers or gamelan musicians - either way they are probably excited to have made it to the cremation grounds, and are looking on as the next stage of preparations gets underway.

As we watched, offerings were arriving in a constant stream. They made their way through the jostling crowd to the bulls, where they were piled up beside them - many of these offerings were to be burned. Food offerings, flowers, fine brocade cloths...

The atmosphere took a slightly more serious tone as the bodies arrived, wrapped in white cloth. Most were little more than loose bundles of bones. There was a separate priest officiating over each bull, making sure everything was done properly. The backs of the bulls were cut open with a knife, and the bodies placed inside.

Offerings were placed inside the bulls with the bodies, and jug after jug of holy water was poured over the remains, after which the jugs were smashed.

The ubiquitous black and white checkered cloth, the final reminder of the duality the Balinese see in all things - good/evil, light/darkness, life/death.

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Photos: Astrid, Martin and Julia Randall
All content copyright (c) 2002, Astrid, Martin and Julia Randall