I was in Ubud for a rare occasion, which was a cremation. Cremations are rare because they are public events that cost a lot of money and families save up for years to be able to cremate their loved ones. However, in this case this was the cremation of the prince of Ubud and his family were able to afford to cremate him. The prince was only 34 years of age and tragically died of an asthma attack. However to the Hindi populace this is a celebration as he gets to pass on to a better world sooner and thousands of people came to celebrate.
The prince’s body was carried from the Palace to the cemetery around a 20 minute walk under normal circumstances, however, on the day of the cremation there was a procession and teams of devotees carried a bull and and a tower, housing the prince’s body. The bull would be the final resting place for the body where it would be transferred to and later burned.
These mobile monuments are heavy, really heavy and teams of people took it in turns to carry the structures in a relay through the streets of Ubud. I was lucky enough to have staked out a spot with a few friends in a local restaurant on the main street in order to be able to have a good vantage point of the precession as it went past. I had been told that thousands of people would be attending the celebrations and I was fortunate to be staying local enough to book a table earlier that morning so that I could capture the people as they came past.
As the procession winded it’s way to the cemetery their were a few pit stops along the way to allow the bearers time to rest. The structures were extremely heavy and the precession took place at the hottest part of the day, meaning that these breaks were essential for those carrying the monuments.
At the Cemetery the body was burnt signifying it’s passing to the next world, there was a celebration and people were clapping, this is in contrast to the western cremations that I am used to where the mood is somber. I am certainly not used to people selling me pringles and beer or hear cheering as the body is being burnt. However, I can’t help but wonder if this is not a more healthy attitude towards death.
The event was well covered by the media and by people who wanted to have their own document of the occasion. I was grateful of the opportunity to experience a royal cremation from the local prospective. It felt like I was a part of their history which was being written in front of me and so many people were there ready with their camera’s and phones to record the day for themselves.
I was told that in Balinese culture people do not cry over the body as this will prevent their passing to the next world, instead they rejoice and celebrate the passing as a blessing. I like this idea and feel that it would help me in coming to terms the death of a loved one. I was told that the prince was a very popular man and I did see a few tears away from the body but mostly I saw happy and jubilant people who banded together in their celebration of this man’s life.
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