I've been lucky enough to witness 2 cremation ceremonies during my time in Ubud. I know that sounds strange, but these ceremonies are both fascinating and exciting affairs. Bali is actually the only Indonesian island with Buddhism and Hinduism as the leading religion, most others are predominately Islamic. The first cremation I witnessed I came upon totally by chance. It was maybe my second day at Yuliati House and I was sitting in my room relaxing after an excellent morning yoga session when I heard drumming and cheers from the street. Actually, I should say that first on my way to yoga and on my way home I saw some villagers piecing together what looked like a large, white paper mâché bull. So when I heard the drums I rushed out to the street to find it filled with people dressed in robes and other fancy garb. The women were balancing offerings on their heads, while children skipped gaily beside them. The men were marching carrying banners, roasted pig in a spit or gathered together to carry one of two large floats: the bull being one, and an ornately decorated second which carried the body of, who I found out was the village priest. The procession filed down to the end of the street where they gathered at a large temple complex. From there the whole shabang was set ablaze, both floats and whatever offerings had been brought. Food and festivities seemed to be enjoyed while everyone watched the pyre burn to ash. Only a few days later an even grander cremation celebration was held at the royal palace for a member of the royal family. I had a hard time discerning whether someone had actually died, or if this cremation ceremony was held only in remembrance of the royal diseased, but the pyre was massive and colorful. I thought it a shame to burn such a beautiful piece of art. And the bull was black this time, and at least 3 times the size if the one for the priest. The procession paraded down the main road in Ubud, and ended in the same temple complex as the previous ceremony. This time there were vendors selling food, cotton candy and large colorful balloons.
Such a curious practice, and I consider myself privileged and lucky to have witnessed the occurrence twice.
Procession for the village priest
The bull was much larger for the royal family
Pink Spongebob and angry bird balloons at a cremation....ok-ay?