Royal Cremation Ceremony

Here in Bali they know how to send someone off properly. Today, I attended the cremation ceremony for the king’s brother who died recently. Similar to the royal family in Britain, the royal family in Bali has no official role in government yet, they are still revered and granted an important place in Bali culture and society.

Cremations are one of the most spectacular ceremonies in Bali. In the beginning of our stay here, we were amazed by the number of ceremonies that are conducted almost daily – honoring anything and everything. Weddings, deaths, births, teeth filings, blessings of tools, and on and on and on. You name it! If it relates to any aspect of life (or death) they acknowledge it with offerings to thank the peaceful spirits or to placate the darker forces. At first glance, the preparations (including the decorations and offerings) were all similar or standard for each rite. Now that we’ve been here a little while, I’ve started to notice differences in how Balinese observe their religious rites. Much like the US, the size and spectacle of a ceremony depends on the wealth and importance of the family. And nowhere is this more evident than in the cremation ceremony. While the poorest of the Balinese are buried, and eventually, (sometimes as long as five years later), cremated in a group, the wealthier are cremated right away. While there may be differences in the pomp and circumstance of the cremation ceremony, the belief is universal that the body needs to be burned to set the soul free from worldly ties, and to start a new life in a world that is believed to be even more beautiful than Bali itself.

During the cremation ceremony, there is a large procession of people dressed in colorful clothes, carrying gifts and offerings, accompanied by musicians playing traditional music. The body is carried at the top of a large tower. The size of the tower depends on the status of the family. Today the deceased was a member of the royal family so, the tower was 11 levels which is the maximum height and reserved for royalty. As the tower is carried through the procession, It is shaken and spun around to confuse the spirit of the deceased and prevent it from returning to haunt the living.

Upon arrival at the cremation site, the celebration stops and the body is transferred to a coffin, usually in the shape of a bull or lion (today was a bull). The coffin is then set on fire and the crowd goes nuts to celebrate the departure of the spirit into the heavens.

Here are two videos from the ceremony. My apologies for the quality. It was pouring so, I didn’t go to the actual cremation which is after the procession and open to the public. I wasn’t that keen on standing in the rain. 😅

If you’re interested in a good quality video, I’m attaching the link to the king’s funeral procession that took place a couple of years ago. It looks much better than mine – it was taken by a real photographer. It’s a little long but the end is crazy!

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