Bali story for you
About Bali, Bali travel,Bali hotel, Bali accommodation,Bali holiday, Bali villa,Bali product,Bali forum and Bali culture complete information this is the best site to view
Bali Community
In Brief
Bali at a Glance
Search this site

Bali Travel
Cities of Bali
Our partner site
Important Links


Death And Cremation

The great towers in which the corpses are carried to the cremation ground and the animal-shaped coffins in which they will be burned, the two most spectacular factors in a cremation, have waited ready for days in some corner of the village, covered with screens of woven palm-leaf.

The cremation tower is a high structure solidly built of wood and bamboo, bound together with rattan and covered with Coloured paper ornaments and cotton-wool dyed in bright colours, and glittering with tinsel and small mirrors. Shaped like the temple gates and the sun altars, the tower represents again the Balinese conception of the cosmos: a wide base, often in the shape of a turtle with two serpents entwined around its body, the symbol of the foundation, upon which the world rests, supporting three gradually receding platforms -the mountains, with bunches of paper flowers and leaves on the corner of each platform to represent the forests. Then comes an open space, the bale balean, " rather like a house," the space between heaven and earth. This consists of four posts backed with a board on one side, and with a protruding platform to which the bodies are fastened. The bale balean is topped by a series of receding roofs like a pagoda to represent the heavens. These are always in odd numbers which vary according to the caste of the family: one for Sudras, from three to eleven for the aristocracy, and none for the Brahmanic priests. The back of the tower is nearly covered with a gigantic bead of Bhoma, the Son of the Earth, a wild-eyed, fanged monster with enormous outstretched wings, that spread some ten feet on each side of the tower. This mask and the wings are covered with bright-coloured cotton-wool. As many as seventy-five men are often required to carry the great tower and its complementary bridge, a tall bamboo runway by which the upper stages of the tower are reached. Strict caste rules also dictate the shape of the patulangan, the sarcophagi: Sudras are entitled only to burn their dead in open cases shaped like a gadjamina, a fantastic -animal, half el6pbant, half fish. Today the majority of the nobility use the bull for men and the cow for women, animals supposedly once reserved -for Brahmanas; Satrias were entitled only to a singha, a winged lion; and Wesias used the deer. Towers and coffins are not made by ordinary villagers but by artist specialists who are directed by a master craftsman. The cows are splendidly carved out of wood, the hollow body hewn out of a tree-trunk, the back of which opens like a lid. The whole animal is covered with coloured,felt or velvet, lavishly ornamented with goldleaf, cotton-wool, and silk scarfs. Caste again decides whether the animal should be black, white, spotted, yellow, orange, or purple. With true Balinese playfulness, their sexual organs are clearly defined and those of bulls often are made so that they can be put into action by means of a bidden string.

From dawn of the day of the cremation the house teems with excited people attending to the last details; the hosts wait on the notable guests, the women see to the offerings, hordes of halfinaked men proceed to uncover the towers and the sarcophagi and bring them to the front of the house gate. Delegations are sent to the cremation grounds to put the final touches on the bamboo altars and on the platforms of tightly packed earth, roofed with coloured paper and tinsel, where the corpses will be cremated.

When everything is ready and the guests have been served with their final banquet, the village kulkul is beaten to start the march to the cremation grounds; the way to the tower is cleared of evil influences by sprinklings of holy water, and a great fire is often made to prevent rain during the day. Eventually the corpses are taken' out, not through the gate, but over a bridge or through a hole knocked out somewhere in the house walls. The groups of men in loincloths that carry the bodies are greeted with fireworks, and handfuls of kepengs are scattered, as a traditional custom and not because the people actually believe the evil spirits to be interested in pelnnies.

A second party waits outside ready to snatch the corpse from the first group, and a realistic free-for-all ensues; one group rushes against the other, yelling and. hooting like madmen until the attacking party runs off, knocking one another down, turning and. whirling the body in all directions " to confuse it so that it can not find its way back to the house." The corpse is disrespectfully rough-handled all the way to the tower, carried up the bamboo runway, and securely tied to the plank on the uppermost stage, the bale balean. Meantime the women, unconcerned with

pranks of the men, rush to the cremation place in a disorderly',,,, stampede, quite in contrast with the solemn procession of the day', before. Instead of silks and gold, they wear ordinary clothes and most of them go with uncovered breasts. They carry the accessories, offerings, and the pots of holy water. The decaying evilspirit offerings that lay for days near the corpses are piled up on bamboo stretchers and rushed to the cemetery, followed by hordes of hungry dogs that fight for the rotten food that falls oil the ground.

Although there is no organization committee, the procession is soon under way. The orchestras that have played incessantly since the day before march at the head of the parade followed by the spear-bearers, the baris dancers, and the men who carry the cows; then come the women with the effigies, then the towers and the bridges, carried by a wild mob of lialf-naked, shouting men who deliberately choose the most difficult paths, falling into ditches and splashing each other with mud, almost toppling the towers over, and whirling them to further mislead the dead. The high priest rides in a dignified and mystic attitude amidst all this hullabaloo. Each tower is led to the cemetery by a long rope tied at one end to the platform where the corpses are fastened, the other end held by the hands of relatives. This rope has a special significance, and in cremations of members of the royal family, the descendants of the Dewa Agung of Klungkung, it takes the shape of a great serpent that serves as a vehicle for the souls.

The noisy procession dashes along in disorderly fashion, raising clouds of dust, accompanied by fireworks and war music, until it reaches the cemetery, just outside the village. There the cows are placed on the bald pabasmian, the cremation pavilions, their final destination; a canopy of new white cloth, a " sky," is stretched under the paper and tinsel roof directly over the funeral pyre, and detachments from the procession walk three times around the pavilions to do them honour. The bridge is placed against the tower and men run up the runway while the attendant who rode on the tower releases two small chickens that were tied by the feet to the posts of the stage where the bodies are fastened. They are used as a substitute for the doves that in olden times were released by the widows that were sacrificed and cremated with the corpse of a prince. Their significance was probably symbolic, although the Balinese now say that they are only " to teach the soul bow to fly. This may be a typical tongue-in-cheek Balinese answer to dodge a complicated explanation for out siders.

The remains are then handed down by the mien lined along the runway until they reach the ground. Each group carrying a corpse is attacked again by another party of yelling men who aim to take the body by force in fierce hand-to-hand battles. Clothes are torn to shreds and men are trampled upon until the victorious party makes away with the corpse. Meantime women attendants spread the kadjang, the long white shroud which they hold stretched over their heads, attaching one end of the cloth to the corpse, held up high by as many hands as its length permits. Thus led by the kadi2ng, the body is taken to the coffin, now opened by lifting the lid that forms the back of the animal, and the corpse is placed inside. Relatives crowd around it to supervise the last details and have a last look at the body, which they expose by cutting the many bindings with a special knife inscribed with magic syllables.

The high priest steps onto the platform and recites prayers over the corpse, at intervals pouring pot after pot of holy water on it, dashing the empty pots to the ground to break them, which is one of the rules. The body is so thoroughly soaked in holy water that one begins to wonder bow it is possible that it will bum. Next the important accessories,' together with thousands of kepengs as ransom to Yama, the lord of bell, are spread over the body; costly- silks and brocades are piled on it, and the lid is replaced, while the more voluminous offerings are put under the coffin to serve as fuel. The priest stands facing the closed coffin for a final blessing and often he himself sets off the pyre. Fire from matches is considered unclean and it should be procured by friction or by a sun-glass.

The orchestras play all at once, the angk1ung louder and more aggressive than ever, while the gambang hums solemnly near where the old men and the women relatives have assembled to watch the body burn. The air is heavy with the odour peculiar to cremations, which haunts one for hours after, a mixture of decaying organic matter, sweating bodies, trampled grass, charred flesh, and smoke. The mob plunders the towers to rescue the mirrors, silks, and tinsel before it is set on fire. Everybody is tense and they dash about excitedly feeding the fires, all except the high priest, who is in a trance, performing the last maweda on a high platform, the elderly men, who drink palm wine from Tall bamboo vessels, sitting in a boisterous group, and the daughters and wives of the dead men, who remain unemotionally quiet in the background.

The men in charge poke the corpses unceremoniously with long poles, adding debris from the towers, all the while joking and talking to the corpse. The crowd is neither affected nor touched by the weird sight of corpses bursting out of the halfburned coffins, becoming anxious only when the body is slow to burn. Soon the cow's legs give way and the coffin collapses, spilling burning flesh and calcinated bones over the fire until they are totally consumed, often not without a good deal of poking. Small boys are then permitted to fish out the kepengs with long sticks after the unburned pieces of wood are taken away. Water is poured over the embers, and the remaining bits of bone with some ashes are piled into a little mound which is covered with palm-leaves. Green branches of dadap are tied to each of the four posts of the cremation pavilion, and surrounded by a rope of white yarn, thus closing it " to forget the dead." The remaining ashes ire then blessed and placed in an urn, a coconut inscribed with the magic ong and wrapped in white cloth. It is customary that this be done just as the sun has begun to set. A new procession is formed for the march to the sea, where the ashes will be disposed of. On arrival at the seashore, or at, the river if the sea is too far away, the priest Wades into the water to ask of the sea or the river spirit to carry the ashes safely out. The ashes are then carefully strewn over the waters and the whole congregation bathes, to cleanse themselves before returning home in the darkness.

Front Index Page - Bali

Bali Holidays Activities
Bali holidays - Sight Seeing Tour, Bali Mystic Tour, Bali temple tour and more
Bali Diving-Dive in Bali | Bali golf-Golfing In Bali | Bali Cruise-Bali sailing | Bali Fishing
Bali Marine Sport | Bali horse-elephant riding | Bali cycling | Bali Trekking | Bali Rafting|Bali Spa
Bali 5 Star hotels

| Bali Hyatt hotel | Sanur Aerowisata hotel | The Grand Bali Beach | Amandari
| Four Season resort Sayan | | Amankila Bali | Lemeridien Nirwana Bali |
Bali Imperial hotel | The Oberoi Bali | Bali Padma | Ramada bintang Bali |
| Four Season Resort | Kartika Plaza hotel | Pertamina Cottages Bali| Nikko Bali hotel
| The Ritz Carlton Bali | | Bali Intercontinental | Aston Bali Resort | Kuta Paradiso |
Amanusa Bali
| Bali Hilton international | Grand Hyatt Bali | Melia Bali hotel |
Nuda dua beach hotel
| Putri Bali hotel |Bali Sheraton Lagoon | Bali Sheraton Nusa indah |
Bali 4 Star Hotels
| Radisson Bali hotel | Raddin Sanur Bali hotel | Lorin Hotel saba Bali | Bali Candi Beach Cottages |
Santika Bali hotel | Bali dynasty | Bali garden (rachman Bali) | Holiday inn Bali hai | Intan Bali hotel |
| Bali Alam kulkul Resort | White Rose hotel | Bali Legian beach hotel | Natour Kuta beach hotel |
| Sahid raya Bali hotel | Grand Mirage | Hard rock hotel Bali | Mimpi Resort Menjangan |
Bali 3 Star Hotels
| Natour's Bali hotel | Segara village | Natour's Sindhu | Tanjungsari hotel Bali |
Kupu-Kupu barong Bali | Chedi payangan | Begawan Giri Bali | Rama Candi Dasa Bali| Serai Bali|
Hai tide huts |Pacung Asri hotel | Bali rani hotel | Legian paradiso hotel | | vila rumah manis |
Bali intan Cottages
| Bali Mandira hotel |Club Mediteranie | Sol Lovina |Puri Bagus Lovina |
Bali Hotels by Area
Ubud Hotels | Kuta Hotels | Sanur hotels | Nusa Dua hotels | Kintamani hotels | Bedugul hotels|
Candidasa Hotels | Tabanan Hotels | Lovina Hotels | Jimbaran Hotels | Karangasem Hotels |
Indonesian Hotels
Jakarta Hotels| Yogyakarta Hotels | Lombok Hotels| Cheap Bali hotels | Indonesia Hotels

Bali Hotel List
Complete Bali hotels and resorts

Bali Map
Bali weddings

Please contact me for more information at


Developed & Maintained by:
Lisa P.A Zimmerman,PhD. Albert Zimmerman,MA. Putu Agung,M.Eng. Kirsten Parson,M.Eng. Joost MK,M.Eng. Brian Widjaja,SKom, Lhukie Ridwan,SKom & Friends
contact us at:
The most complete information about Bali,Bali hotels and accommodation,Bali holidays,Bali weddings,Bali villas and Bali travel site