North east Bali. I’m lost. Somewhere in the middle of nowhere. Without internet. Or a map. Or an idea which way to go.
I’m looking for a famous temple, which turns out to be quite difficult. No street signs, no village, no people to give me a hint. The sun is burning relentlessly. My right side already looks like a freshly boiled lobster. I’m about to give up when I hear Gamelan music. Following the sound, I come across a procession of festively dressed Balinese people. Are they going to the temple? I get off my bike and follow the crowd.
We climb up a mountain and come to a gate. This is not the temple. I want to turn around when an old man approaches me. “Come along,” he says in broken English. He looks very friendly and cheerful, waving at me to follow him. Behind the gate there’s a huge square, crowded with people. It seems the whole village has gathered here, chatting, drinking, eating …. In the far-right corner I see a big fireplace. In front of it sits a man holding a flamethrower. He reminds me of my dad, trying to light the barbecue with a hairdryer. Just I little more effective. We get closer and … on the roast lies a half-burned body!
I have been invited to a Balinese cremation ceremony. After overcoming the first shock, what surprises me more than the dead person is the party mood of the crowd. Nobody seems to be grieving. Curiously, I ask my companion: “Why aren’t you sad?” And he tells me about his believe:
For the Balinese the cremation of a loved one is a time of celebration. The people believe that the deceased person will be reborn as somebody else. Newborn children are thus seen as reincarnated souls. But in order for the dead person to reincarnate they must first be released, and the cremation ceremony is what makes this happen.
So, this day is a day of joy. I’m not a religious or spiritual person, but I do like this idea!