Death And Cremation
Strange as it seems, it is in their creamation ceremonies that the Balinese have their greatest fun. A.cremation is an occasion for gaiety and not for mourning, since it represents the accomplishment of their most sacred -duty: the ceremonial burning of the corpses of the dead to liberate their souls so that they can thus attain the higher worlds inid-befree for reincarnation into better beings.
At cremation ceremonies hundreds of people in a wild stampede carry the beautiful towers, sixty feet high, solidly built of wood and bamboo and decorated with tinsel and expensive silks, in which the bodies are transported to the cremation grounds. There the corpses are placed in great cows (hewn out of tree-trunks to serve as coffins and covered with precious ma. terials) , and cows, towers, offerings, and ornaments are set on fire, hundreds and even thousands of dollars burned in one afternoon in a mad splurge of extravagance by a people who value the necessities of life in fractions of pennies.
To the Balinese, the material body is only the shell, the container of the soul. This soul live in evry part of the body, even in the hair and nails, but it is concentrated in the head which is near-holy to them. A Balinese observes the rank of his head inrelation to the rest of his body, and for this reason no one would -stand on his head or take any position that would place his feet on. a higher level. It is an offence even to pat a small child on the head and there is no worse insult than " I'll beat your head! " One's soul wanders away during sleep (dreams arc its travels and adventures), without becoming, however, entirely detached from the body, and it is considered dangerous to awaken a person too suddenly. Children are never beaten, so as not to shock their tender, still undeveloped souls.
Madness, epilepsy, and idiocy are the results of a bewitched soul, but oedinary sickness is due to a weakened, polluted soul rather than to mere physical causes. ' Life vanishes when the soul, escapes from the body through the 'mouth, and death occur's when it refuses to return. The relatives of a dying man who has lost consciousness go to the temple of the dead and, through a medium, beg the deities for the release and return of his soul. By force of habit, the soul lingers near the body when death comes, and. remains floating in space or lives in a tree near by until,liberated by the obliteration, of the corpse by the elements by earth, by fire, and by water, to destroy the last unclean tie that. binds the souls of the dead to this earth. By cremation the soul is released to fly to the heavens for judgment and return to be reborn into the dead man's grandchildren. Failure to, liberate the soul by, neglecting to perform the cremation or by incomplete or, improper rites would force the soul to turn into a ghoset that would haunt the careless descendants.
Cremation rites were probably not introduced into Bali until the time of majapahit, about. the'thirteenth century but the ancient Balinese animists already, believed that their 'life-fluid was immortal and that after death it returned to animate other beings. They. Practiced the obliteration of the corpse by 'burial or, as is still done in the primitive village of Sembiran, simply by abandoning the. bodies in the forest at the edge of a ravine to be eaten by wild animals. A man in Bali is born into a superior state - a higher caste -. if his behaviour on this earth has been good; otherwise he will reincarnate into a lower.stage of life to begin over again the progressive march towards.. ultimate perfection Aman "who is guilty'of'serious- crimes is punished by being reborn, often for periods of thousands of years, into a tiger, a dog, a snake, a worm, or a poisonous mushroom.
Between incarnations, until the time comes for its return to this. earth, the soul goes to Indra's heaven, the swarga, a reservoir where "life is just as in Bali, but devoid of all trouble and illness." But this process does not go on forever; when the individual has attained the highest', wisdom and has reached the highest position among men, that of a Brahmana who has been ordained as a priest, he hopes to obtain liberation from this cycle of births. and become a god. The man of low caste attributes his state to former misconduct, redeemable in future lives only through a virtuous existence, which entitles him to be reborn into a higher and higher caste.
A mans life on this earth is but an incident in the long process of the soul's evolution.
The grand send-off of the soul into heaven, in the form of a rich and complete cremation, is the life-ambition of every Balinese. He looks forward to it, often making provision during life with savings or property that can be pawned or sold to finance his cremation. The greatest happiness that comes to a Balinese -family, is to have, in this way, accomplished the liberation of, the souls of their dead, but complete cremation ceremonies are so costly that a family of limited means have to wait often for years., haunted by the fact that their dead are not yet cremated, and are sometimes obliged to sacrifice their crops and their lands in order to pay for the ceremonies. The expenses of, a cremation are enormous; besides the priest's fees, the great amounts of holy water used and the costly towers coffins offerings and so forth there is the food and entertaiment provide for days for the hundreds of guest and assistants that help in the ceremonies
A rich-cremation adds greatly to the prestige o a well-to-do family, giving occasion for gay, extravagant festivities that are eagerly anticipated despite the financial burden they represent
A good average for a great cremation is seldom thousand ringgits or about two million kepengs (a ringgit is worth about one gold dollar in normal exchange), but there:' cremations of princes that cost as much as fifty thousand guilders (at the time of writing, about twenty five thousand dollars
The cremation of the mother of, Naseh, a former servant of' ours, was the poorest we ever witnessed. She was burned three days after her death with only the most essential rites then the costs amounted to more than the, fifty Naseh had succeeded in borrowing. A unique and rather ,improvised cremation of a nobleman of Pemetjutan cost,only three hundred and fifty guilders because the body had to be burnet on the same day the death occurred and I was told. By relatives that had the corpse been kept for the reglementary forty, two days, the cremation would have cost over guilders. The extraordinary decision to cremate. a, caste immediately became possible only because the the community was preparing for, their greatest in,a decade could not have taken place bad there been an im, cremated corpse in the village. The family was in difficult,financial circumstances and they. welcomed the decision.
A Brahmanic priest is essential to a, proper.crmation and only the destitute would call upon a lesser priest,the quality of the ceremonies the priest performs is determined by, the to him. There is a choice of three kinds of cremation utama the highest, costing an average of fifty dollars in,fees for the priest alone; madia the medium class cremation for about twenty-five dollars; and nista, the low for about five dollars The rites for each are abaut-the same the difference consisting in the quality and power of the magic formulas and symbols and, the sort of holy water used, the credentials given by, to the soul entering heaven, and the more or less thorough purification of the soul.
It is always
a good resource, in a great cremation of to provide. a retinue of souls
for his trip into the beyond and to profit at the same time by the magical
and social advantages of a more elegant cremation. In Krobokan we witnessed
the release Of two hundred and fifty souls of commoners who accompanied
a member. of the royal family. It is of extreme importance, however, to
keep within the rules prescribed for each caste, the breach of which would
bring dreadful punishment upon guilty relatives who in their craving for
ostentation should use rites or materials for the accessories allotted
to a higher caste. These rules are at times infringed and it becomes the
source of malicious gossip if a family use a cow instead of a lion to
burn their deceased, or if they have more roofs in their tower than is
their right. In a few cases the right of cremation is denied, as in the
death of exiles from the island. Lepers are buried in hidden places and
their redemption, is carried out by pious persons, secretly and through
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