Cremation

It has been a long day, full of prayers and family, and we are all tired, but it feels good. I feel reassured that bapak is resting in peace. I kept catching glimpses of him in his son’s faces throughout the day, which seemed to be a sign that he wanted to reach out to let me know he was ok.

We arrived in the village at about 7pm last night, to find preparations in full swing. The women had been there all day, preparing the offerings and were leaving to go home, and the men were taking over, for the night shift. I went and chatted to all the different groups, making sure they knew how appreciative I was of the work they were doing, and then made my excuses and took the kids off to bed.

At midnight we were woken for the first of many prayers. We stumbled to the bale dangin,(a small ceremonial building) where all the offerings were laid. This is where the dead body would have been too, but as we had already cremated bapak 8 months ago, there was no body. The whole structure was engulfed in smoke from hundreds of incense, and the priest was chanting in a lyrical voice.

The whole family gathered and prayed, all the brothers and sisters had made the trip from various parts of Java and Lombok to be here for this send off. It felt wonderful to have them all there together; Muslims, Christians and Hindus all united in prayer for their deceased father. The energy was amazing, and as I looked from one to the other, I saw glimpses of their father staring back at me. He loved it when all his children were in one place, so he was clearly enjoying seeing them all there.

We moved from the bale dangin to the grass area beside it, and were given a long piece of string to hold. On the string were hanging old Balinese coins, and  each sibling had to hold on to one of the coins. The string was then set alight at one end, and as the fire reached each coin, it would drop off in to a bowl. This was to symbolize cutting earthly ties with bapak, so that he could be free to go on to the after life.

Once the whole string was burned, we were given an offering each, and told to turn around, and throw it up in the air behind us, much like a new bride throws a bouquet. This also represented letting bapak go free.

After these rituals were over, it was around 2 in the morning. We filed back to bed for a couple of hours, before being woken at 5am to continue with the next stage.

This time, we formed a procession to carry the offerings to the burial ground for the cremation. We had to walk through the forest, up and down very steep hills, all the while making sure we did not drop anything. Once at the site, we performed various prayers before setting the symbolic offerings alight:

smokey fire fire

The day progressed with more prayers and rituals, involving 6 priests, a trip to the ocean, followed by visiting a few temples before ending back at the family temple to perform the final prayers. Like I said, it was a very long day! We were all very tired, but we also felt a sense of calm and achievement, that everything had gone smoothly. It was also a great chance to catch up with the rest of the family, here is a shot of all of us together:

IMG_4577

4 thoughts on “Cremation

  1. This is incredible. It sounds like an incredible ceremony and I would love to go to such a ceremony; sounds like an extremely appropriate send off and it sounds special and memorable. Thank you for sharing this cultural experience.

    Liked by 1 person

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