The great towers in which the corpses are carried to the cremation ground and the animal-shaped coffins in which they will be burned, the two most spectacular factors in a cremation, have waited ready for days in some corner of the village, covered with screens of woven palm-leaf.
From dawn of the day of the cremation the house teems with excited people attending to the last details; the hosts wait on the notable guests, the women see to the offerings, hordes of halfinaked men proceed to uncover the towers and the sarcophagi and bring them to the front of the house gate. Delegations are sent to the cremation grounds to put the final touches on the bamboo altars and on the platforms of tightly packed earth, roofed with coloured paper and tinsel, where the corpses will be cremated.
When everything is ready and the guests have been served with their final banquet, the village kulkul is beaten to start the march to the cremation grounds; the way to the tower is cleared of evil influences by sprinklings of holy water, and a great fire is often made to prevent rain during the day. Eventually the corpses are taken' out, not through the gate, but over a bridge or through a hole knocked out somewhere in the house walls. The groups of men in loincloths that carry the bodies are greeted with fireworks, and handfuls of kepengs are scattered, as a traditional custom and not because the people actually believe the evil spirits to be interested in pelnnies.
A second party waits outside ready to snatch the corpse from the first group, and a realistic free-for-all ensues; one group rushes against the other, yelling and. hooting like madmen until the attacking party runs off, knocking one another down, turning and. whirling the body in all directions " to confuse it so that it can not find its way back to the house." The corpse is disrespectfully rough-handled all the way to the tower, carried up the bamboo runway, and securely tied to the plank on the uppermost stage, the bale balean. Meantime the women, unconcerned with
pranks of the men, rush to the cremation place in a disorderly',,,, stampede, quite in contrast with the solemn procession of the day', before. Instead of silks and gold, they wear ordinary clothes and most of them go with uncovered breasts. They carry the accessories, offerings, and the pots of holy water. The decaying evilspirit offerings that lay for days near the corpses are piled up on bamboo stretchers and rushed to the cemetery, followed by hordes of hungry dogs that fight for the rotten food that falls oil the ground.
there is no organization committee, the procession is soon under way.
The orchestras that have played incessantly since the day before march
at the head of the parade followed by the spear-bearers, the baris dancers,
and the men who carry the cows; then come the women with the effigies,
then the towers and the bridges, carried by a wild mob of lialf-naked,
shouting men who deliberately choose the most difficult paths, falling
into ditches and splashing each other with mud, almost toppling the towers
over, and whirling them to further mislead the dead. The high priest rides
in a dignified and mystic attitude amidst all this hullabaloo. Each tower
is led to the cemetery by a long rope tied at one end to the platform
where the corpses are fastened, the other end held by the hands of relatives.
This rope has a special significance, and in cremations of members of
the royal family, the descendants of the Dewa Agung of Klungkung, it takes
the shape of a great serpent that serves as a vehicle for the souls.
The noisy procession dashes along in disorderly fashion, raising clouds of dust, accompanied by fireworks and war music, until it reaches the cemetery, just outside the village. There the cows are placed on the bald pabasmian, the cremation pavilions, their final destination; a canopy of new white cloth, a " sky," is stretched under the paper and tinsel roof directly over the funeral pyre, and detachments from the procession walk three times around the pavilions to do them honour. The bridge is placed against the tower and men run up the runway while the attendant who rode on the tower releases two small chickens that were tied by the feet to the posts of the stage where the bodies are fastened. They are used as a substitute for the doves that in olden times were released by the widows that were sacrificed and cremated with the corpse of a prince. Their significance was probably symbolic, although the Balinese now say that they are only " to teach the soul bow to fly. This may be a typical tongue-in-cheek Balinese answer to dodge a complicated explanation for out siders.
The remains are then handed down by the mien lined along the runway until they reach the ground. Each group carrying a corpse is attacked again by another party of yelling men who aim to take the body by force in fierce hand-to-hand battles. Clothes are torn to shreds and men are trampled upon until the victorious party makes away with the corpse. Meantime women attendants spread the kadjang, the long white shroud which they hold stretched over their heads, attaching one end of the cloth to the corpse, held up high by as many hands as its length permits. Thus led by the kadi2ng, the body is taken to the coffin, now opened by lifting the lid that forms the back of the animal, and the corpse is placed inside. Relatives crowd around it to supervise the last details and have a last look at the body, which they expose by cutting the many bindings with a special knife inscribed with magic syllables.
The high priest steps onto the platform and recites prayers over the corpse, at intervals pouring pot after pot of holy water on it, dashing the empty pots to the ground to break them, which is one of the rules. The body is so thoroughly soaked in holy water that one begins to wonder bow it is possible that it will bum. Next the important accessories,' together with thousands of kepengs as ransom to Yama, the lord of bell, are spread over the body; costly- silks and brocades are piled on it, and the lid is replaced, while the more voluminous offerings are put under the coffin to serve as fuel. The priest stands facing the closed coffin for a final blessing and often he himself sets off the pyre. Fire from matches is considered unclean and it should be procured by friction or by a sun-glass.
The orchestras play all at once, the angk1ung louder and more aggressive than ever, while the gambang hums solemnly near where the old men and the women relatives have assembled to watch the body burn. The air is heavy with the odour peculiar to cremations, which haunts one for hours after, a mixture of decaying organic matter, sweating bodies, trampled grass, charred flesh, and smoke. The mob plunders the towers to rescue the mirrors, silks, and tinsel before it is set on fire. Everybody is tense and they dash about excitedly feeding the fires, all except the high priest, who is in a trance, performing the last maweda on a high platform, the elderly men, who drink palm wine from Tall bamboo vessels, sitting in a boisterous group, and the daughters and wives of the dead men, who remain unemotionally quiet in the background.
The men in
charge poke the corpses unceremoniously with long poles, adding debris
from the towers, all the while joking and talking to the corpse. The crowd
is neither affected nor touched by the weird sight of corpses bursting
out of the halfburned coffins, becoming anxious only when the body is
slow to burn. Soon the cow's legs give way and the coffin collapses, spilling
burning flesh and calcinated bones over the fire until they are totally
consumed, often not without a good deal of poking. Small boys are then
permitted to fish out the kepengs with long sticks after the unburned
pieces of wood are taken away. Water is poured over the embers, and the
remaining bits of bone with some ashes are piled into a little mound which
is covered with palm-leaves. Green branches of dadap are tied to each
of the four posts of the cremation pavilion, and surrounded by a rope
of white yarn, thus closing it " to forget the dead." The remaining
ashes ire then blessed and placed in an urn, a coconut inscribed with
the magic ong and wrapped in white cloth. It is customary that this be
done just as the sun has begun to set. A new procession is formed for
the march to the sea, where the ashes will be disposed of. On arrival
at the seashore, or at, the river if the sea is too far away, the priest
Wades into the water to ask of the sea or the river spirit to carry the
ashes safely out. The ashes are then carefully strewn over the waters
and the whole congregation bathes, to cleanse themselves before returning
home in the darkness.
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