Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust: Cremation

Cremation is the most important ceremony in the Balinese life cycle, as it is said to release the soul. It is a time for celebration, not sorrow, and thus is wonderfully colorful. Cremation is also an extremely costly affair: People will begin saving for their cremation in middle age. The average family spends about Rp15 million on the ceremony, about a year's wages, while wealthy families have been known to lavish hundreds of millions of rupiahs. If there is not enough money saved, families may have to wait years, sometimes more than a decade, before they can hold a cremation. In this case, bodies are buried and then exhumed after enough money has been saved and collected from the community for the cremation. The cremation is always on an auspicious day chosen by the priest from the local or nearby village, according to the Balinese calendar and the movement of the moon.

A large bamboo tower, its size and shape dictated by the caste of the dead person, is built for the cremation. A wooden life-size bull (for men) or cow (for women) is sometimes carved. On the morning of the cremation, the family of the deceased entertains friend and relatives and then the body is placed inside the bamboo tower. The village kul-kul (wooden gong) is struck and the construction is carried in noisy procession to the cremation ground by the banjar (village community members).

Cremation is the most impressive of Balinese ceremonies and usually families don't mind if you watch, although you should bring some money or a nice gift out of respect. One of the best places to see a cremation is in the Jimbaran Bay and Nusa Dua area. The cremation grounds are located in Mumbul in Nusa Dua about 700m (2,297 ft.) after McDonald's on the right-hand side as you come from Kuta. It's best to ask a local at your hotel or villa if there is one happening on the day you want to go.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.