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Indonesia  Scholarship Program  Indonesian Life  Komodo   Sumbawa
Lombok   Growing Rice   Bali   Royal Funeral   Java   Borneo

Royal Funeral


A few months before our arrival in Bali a former Queen of the royal family had died.  A royal funeral is a major life event similar to a royal wedding and like a wedding it takes months of planning and preparation so the body is stored until all details are in place.  We arrived for the big day along with thousands of mourners and quite a few western tourists.  We drove up to the town of Ubud, then walked the last mile toward the funeral site.   As we hiked towards the temple where the body was laying in state we first sighted a tower over 80 feet high all colorfully decorated with symbols of the many Hindu gods.  The base of this tower was made from a bamboo scaffolding and was about 30 feet square.  Halfway up the tower was a platform that would hold the body while the tower was carried from the temple to the cemetery about a mile away.  Leading up to the body platform was a giant ramp like the stairways used to board a jumbo jet airliner.  Shortly after we viewed the Queen's body in the temple the Hindu priests came in and  carried  her up the ramp and placed her in the tower.  There was a short pause while they said prayers and placed offerings around her,  then the priests at the bottom of the tower did likewise and carried a sort of giant 30 foot long purple velvet snake and circled the tower five times.  

Eventually it was time to go and the 100 member band started the music with a clashing of cymbals.  On command a group of over 350 men lifted the giant tower to their shoulders and pivoted 90 degrees in unison to face down the street.  There was a scary moment when they all stopped at once and the giant tower's momentum carried it forward causing it to bend and sway.   A minute later though they all got in sync and at a word from the leader the tower was again lifted and forward they went.  It was over a mile to the cemetery where the cremation would take place and the heat was oppressive so the village fire truck followed behind the men carrying the tower and continually sprayed them with water to cool them off from the huge effort of carrying the massive structure.  Following behind was another group of men carrying a scaffold with a massive 15 foot high black bull seemingly made of paper Mache over chicken wire and covered with a rich black velvet cloth and golden decorations.  Another group carried the large ramp while others had gone ahead in the days before and cut back all the trees and removed the telephone and power pole wires from the street. 

With the crowd of thousands now following behind, the procession made its way to the cemetery.  There the pall bearers gratefully collapsed as they lowered their gigantic load.  The ramp was brought alongside the tower and the priests went up to remove the body and carried it down and placed it inside the bull .  First the body would be cremated inside the bull, then the giant tower would be burned as well.  For the next 45 minutes they said prayers and placed offerings on the bull,  then the moment was at hand as the fire was lit.  Over the next minutes fire consumed the bull sending the Queen to heaven so she could begin the Hindu's endless cycle of death and rebirth that is their Karma. 

Placing your cursor over the photos will give you a caption and clicking on any photo will give you an enlargement of that photo.  After enlarging you can hit the back button on your browser to return you here.

          Funeral Tower                         Details of the tower base     


Tower and ramp              Tower on scaffold

   Ready to lift the tower                             Carrying the tower to the cemetery



Cymbal Players               The bull where the body will be cremated








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Webmaster- Rob Dubin                             copyright 2003-2006   Rob  Dubin               Page Last updated 10/27/2006