It’s wildly hot in the busy town of Ubud in Bali as a series of gong strikes signals the start of a traditional cremation ceremony. Balinese cremation ceremonies are always noisy and colorful events, but today’s is even more extravagant than usual because this cremation ceremony is that of a Prince Tjokorda Putra Dharma Yudha from Puri Kemudasari, a member of the Balinese Royal Family.
Thousands of people line the route between the Royal Palace and the cremation sight to catch a glimpse of the huge tower, known as a Bade, that sits on a vast bamboo platform and holds the body of the late Prince.
Carried by a large number of men, the Bade, makes its way slowly down the main street of Ubud followed by hundreds of people chanting and playing percussion instruments as well as hundreds more onlookers. As is the tradition, people along the route throw water over the men carrying the immense Bade to cool them as they struggle to move the cumbersome and difficult structure.
At the cremation site the body of the Prince is transferred into a giant bull sarcophagus whereupon it is burned, along with the Bade, leaving little more than ashes that are then taken to the ocean by the immediate family members.
The whole thing is something of a hectic but joyful event, meant to celebrate and assist the spirit of the deceased find its way to the afterlife. It’s a long way from the shrouded in black somber funerals familiar to us in the west, and in many ways I find this more colorful approach to death preferable.