If you hear a whistle blowing, you’ll know something is up. Be curious, and follow.  But be prepared and have your camera ready.There’s always new cultural thresholds to reach in the city of Ubud.

 Riding a bike around Ubud gets you close to the pulse of the locals. “What are you preparing for?” I asked a group of Balinese, who were putting  white cloth on a ceremonial platform. “We are preparing for a funeral!”

It would be in half an hour. So I rode to the main street, and had a bakso, an Indonesia soup and waited for the funeral procession to pass. When ever there is a procession, the Balinese go for the main arteries of the city.

Security guards started blowing their whistles, and the traffic was stopped.  A stream of women dressed in their best ceremonial outfit walked past the noodle  shop. Then there was the sound of grunts. The coffin was on its way. I followed on my bike. They were moving at  a whip cracking pace.

At the intersection, the coffin bearers heaved and turned the hearse  anti clock wise three times. I had seen this with the Ogoh Ogoh festival (Bali New Year Celebration) , and I’m told its a way to purge any evil spirits that might be attached for the ride.

The traffic is moving slowly. So I brave it by riding down the middle of the road.  I eventually catch up with the procession, but they have  done a sharp right turn, and are now walking up a hill towards the cemetery. A guy is burning fire at the front of the coffin to ward off bad spirits. Villagers are looking on as the guys carrying the coffin are sweeting  and grunting heavily. But they are close to the burial place, which is situated under a sandalwood tree.

A lady offers cigarettes from a tray to the men. And a man offers me one of his Marlboro Lights. I guess its a good stress reliever during time of grief. Interestingly,  no one was crying.

Now the body is taken off the bamboo hearse. The grave is ready, and the deceased is put in it by four men. I try to stay off the other graves, which are marked by a warn  foot path. A pair of green  sandals have been thrown inside. Not sure if one of the diggers left it there, or if its’ the owner of the deceased, who passed away yesterday .

The woman make offerings of water and coffee and snacks to the the other graves.

Yesterday I had witnessed animal sacrifices. Today I’d see a funeral. But it was far from complete.”We bury the body, and then after three years, we’ll dig it up and cremate it,” said Katut, who is still dripping with sweet. He says most of the cremations are during the cool season between September and October.

The body was placed into his temporary grave. A man jumped in with a knife, and made one hole in the white sheet that wrapped the body up. Now that the dead man could breath, dirt was covered. The bamboo hearse was then burnt. Then as quickly as the ceremony began, it ended. Everyone walked to the temple to be blessed by the priest.

The villager made a little speak. He thanked the eighty strong members of his village. Every one had pitched in since yesterday when the villager had died.

I followed on my bike and spoke to the locals. This is Ubud at its best. And confirms, the Balinese are the most open society. If you show an interest in their culture, there will always be someone to explain what’s going on. I rode back to my homestay, and said thanks to the stragglers who were carrying picks and shovel, for a magical experience.

The traffic was moving slowly again. Culture flows freely on the streets of Ubud. And though the passing procession might cause a brief inconvenience, there’s a common understanding that the streets are for the people.

Can you hear a whistle calling?

It’s  most likely Ubud calling  the curious traveller for another rich cultural experience that’s both spontaneous and quintessentially  Hindu.



6 thoughts on “Balinese Burial

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