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Death And Cremation

To have got rid of the corpse that, with its uncleanliness, bound the soul to the material world, despite the strenuous sacrifices of the family and the countless rites performed does not yet mean that the duties of the descendants are over. It is now essential that the liberated soul be consecrated by further ceremonies, often even more elaborate than the cremation itself, as one of the pitara, the full-fledged ancestral deities. After this the soul receives the name of Dewa Yang, literally a " God," and is allotted a resting-place in the family temple to protect the household.

There are further minor ceremonies within the next twelve days after the remains have been disposed of, such as the metuhun, when the relatives congregate and through a medium, usually a medicine-man, a balian in a trance, communicate with the soul to ask if all is well. I was told that once the balian encountered difficulties in establishing contact with the soul, but an old woman relative suddenly went into ecstasy and spoke to the spirit of the dead man in order to inform the anxious family of the success of the cremation. Then there are the ngerebuhin, when the soul receives offerings, and the mapegat, the final breaking of the last ties with this earth, symbolized by burning a thread and smashing egg-shells. The relatives, the house, and the precious objects used in the ceremonies that were not meant to be destroyed have still to be cleansed from the impurity they acquired by their contact with the dead. But the greatest of all the funeral ceremonies, the consecration of the soul, is the mukur, when the deceased is symbolized by an object called a " blossom," by means of which the ceremonies are performed.

The mukur takes place forty-two days after the cremation and consists in offerings and magic incantations by the high priest, meritorious acts to help the travelling soul to attain its highest goal, the heaven allotted to it by caste, and to predispose the supreme judges to overlook minor sins and be lenient. There are various heavens, each on a higher and higher level, the stages of the cosmic meru, symbolized by the temple pagodas and by the cremation towers. Each heaven is dedicated to one of the castes: the highest is of course for the Brahmana Siwa, the next for the Brahmana Budda, and the lower ones for the Satrias and wesias. The common people have to be content to go to the swarga, the purgatory where they enjoy a perfect life in pure Balinese earthly fashion.

The mukur ceremony is extremely complicated, but is, in a way, so similar to the cremation itself that a detailed description of it would only result in a repetition of the ceremonies already described. The same guests are entertained, similar offerings and accessories are made, the same priests are engaged, ,and a second tower (bukur) is constructed, this time tall and slender and entirely decorated in white and gold. Again many orchestras and troupes of actors arc engaged and pretentious banquets of turtle and roast pig are served.

Great stages raised high above the ground are built at the house for offerings and for the priest. The altars are higher and more beautifully decorated than ever, the devil offerings more elaborate than before, and the participants wear their best clothes and jewellery, the women adding a band of white cloth and a little fan of white paper worn on the head as a symbol of the purity of the occasion. The ceremonies begin by the making of new effigies identical to the adegans used for the cremation, which are given life, blessed, purified by the priest, and then killed " by being burned. The ashes are collected and placed in individual coconut shells with a short stick through their
middle. These coconuts are then wrapped in white cloth, decorated with flowers, and provided with a gold knob at the top, a gold ring with a ruby, a string of about two hundred kepengs, an image representing the dead drawn oil a sandalwood slab, and a label of palm-leaf bearing the name of the person. This is the sekar, a " blossom." a When ready, the sekars arc placed oil silver platters, the relatives mike a ceremonial reverence to them, and they are deposited oil the high stage, which is now filledwith expensive silks and offerings. At the mukur of the Radja of Djerokuta we saw glasses of foreign commodities such as whisky, brandy, and gin.

After the night of vigil spent in watching dramatic performances, listening to music, and so forth, the priest performs his most powerful mantras, the relatives pray, and the sekars are brought down, each member of the family placing one over his or her head to absorb their beneficial influence. They are then broken up, burned, and the ashes placed again in a new sekar identical with the former. These are placed on the white and gold biers and again a great procession starts off for the sea, of ten miles away, with the same mad recklessness as when the corpses were carried to be cremated. The procession stops a, the seashore and the sekars are brought down, placed on a boat, and taken out to the open sea, where they arc thrown into the waters, far enough so that they will not be washed ashore. The biers are again dismantled and burned. All the accessories are destroyed; nothing must remain, and what is not broken tip is burned. Special patrols are appointed to destroy whatever is returned by the waves.

The ceremony over, the happy participants, now relieved of their strenuous duties, take a general bath just at the water's edge, the women unconcerned in a group just a few yards away from the boisterous men, who play and splash in the breaking waves, There is still the long walk home from the shore, and the crowd returns in the blazing midday sun - hot, exhausted, and considerably poorer than before, but in high spirits and happy to have accomplished their greatest duty to those to whom they owe their existence: the consecration of their dead so that they shall continue to guide them as deities in the same way in which, as ordinary human beings, they helped and protected them. All of this has been achieved by the triple purifying action of earth, fire, and water.


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