Cremation on a Bali Beach

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by Neil Godfrey

Sitting in a pleasant warung one morning when I heard clanging of gongs and rhythm of drums; looked out to see a street procession . . . .

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On asking the waitress I learned it was a cremation and I could go and see the ceremony on the beach just around the corner.

Come to Bali! Relax on the beaches. Witness cremations.

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By the time I arrived the body had been taken down from its carriage; some of those in the procession were sheltering in the shade.

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Others were crowding around the body to lay on it their parting gifts and offerings.

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It’s thirsty work for the musicians who are given refreshments during a brief rest.

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Others, reminded of the brevity of life, make the most of their stay here:

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Gifts not laid out on the deceased are stored for more formal sacrifices or temple offerings.

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Top layers of white sheets cover the corpse along with the gifts placed on him or her.

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The top sheets are secured and the fuel prepared in position….

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It’s been a busy morning. You can see an earlier cremation still smouldering . . . .

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One last offering of a cup of water is dropped on to the parched body — this one was luckier (certainly poorer) than Dives. . . .

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Neil Godfrey

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4 thoughts on “Cremation on a Bali Beach”

  1. We witnessed a cremation at Singaraja on the north coast of Bali in 1979.
    Quite an event.
    My understanding is that the community usually waits until a rich person is cremated then poorer folk include their dead in associated events and so piggy back on the main event.
    A happy day with feasting and music.

    1. Another year I saw something like that — big celebration in a temple, long street processions, — was told it was, as you say, an opportunity for the spirits of the poor to cash in on a rich person who died. There was cock-fighting late in the evening — part of a sacrificial ritual as well as an opportunity for a few bets?

      This past week I saw another relic of the old Bali — a woman quite unselfconsciously topless in public, in conversation with a local. Pity she was closer to 80 than 18 years of age.

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