Balinese Cremation

The raw beauty of Bali is a National Geographic photographer’s dream. Further, the Balinese beliefs, spiritual strength and community spirit are inspirational. The fascinating architecture, the peaceful green rice fields and village gatherings contrast a western world full of neighbors who do not know each other’s names, concrete jungles, and brown stucco Starbuck stores. All this and more contribute to why we are still hanging out on Bali.

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The Balinese beliefs surrounding death and reincarnation are fascinating. Their cremation celebrations are an elaborate expression of their religion and commitment to their culture. The Balinese speak of death with a reflective smile on their face. They believe their loved one is being reincarnated or passing on to a better world. Every few years, each village holds a cremation ceremony where the ones who have passed away in the previous years will have their bodies exhumed and the remains prepared for a large community celebration and a final cremation. For a royal death, or someone in a high caste, the cremation is almost immediate.  We had a chance to see a royal cremation when a former queen of Bali passed away.

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After days of preparation for this royal cremation, a procession of hundreds of men carried both a tall, tiered, pagoda which contained the body of the deceased and a sarcophagus in the shape of a bull.  The men were accompanied by musicians while they walked to a local temple prepared for the final cremation ceremony.  The event is a celebration filled with laughter, music, beautiful Balinese attire, offerings and food. Tourists equipped with smartphones, cameras and video equipment run around like crazy fools filling up their memory cards quicker than they could imagine.

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This cremation day had already cremated about 11 others in smaller bulls before we arrived.  It was hot and smoky and amazing to see.  Check out this video of some of the aftermath.  Can’t see the video?  Open the blog rather then reading it in your email.

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In the old days wood was used for fuel.  Today, men with large gas burners ignite and burn the bulls ensuring the remains are fully cremated.

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Almost immediately after the body was cremated, family members sifted through the ashes to collect any remaining bones.

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Here is a video of the ashes being processed.  You don’t see this everyday.

Final remains will be taken in a procession to the ocean.  Another ceremony is held at the beach before the remains are released allowing the deceased to be free of this life. According to Balinese Hinduism, it is only after the five elements of air, earth, fire, water and space have been returned to the cosmos that the soul can detach itself from the body and be free.

Check out this video of the royal cremation bull being moved through the streets.

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Moving the body into the bull.
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Enjoying a moment in the cemetery

This video shows Balinese women with offerings circling the cremation bull before it was set on fire.  We didn’t hang around for that fire… way too many chemicals from the burning of foam and paint.


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Amazingly strong beliefs, hand-in-hand with so much waste and pollution.  A contradiction like so many things we have seen in Asia.

Mark and Christine

4 thoughts on “Balinese Cremation

  1. I crawled into bed and wondered what I would read tonight and found this lil gem, all newly posted! Fascinating stuff. Miss you guys! xoxo


  2. Wow, you two! We’ve been wondering what you’ve been up to lately! The Lamarres are just wrapping up Spring Break at Disneyland – quite a contrast to your adventures!


  3. I was just thinking of you guys this week wondering what you were up to. Great post. Sounds like such a fascinating country
    Karen and Laurel


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