Cremations come in all shapes and sizes in Bali, but whether big,
little or economy size - whether a recent corpse, a mummified body
or a handful of disinterred bones - they always rate star billing
- because in an island famed for festivals, there is no occasion
as festive as a cremation.
Bear with me and all will be clear.
To understand the mood of a cremation, you need to know
something of the religion behind it. A cremation is not a pious
parting. It is a joyful re-cycling of the soul - a bon voyage party
Speeding the spirit from here to eternity For the Balinese believe
that the soul is earthbound until freed from the imprisoning body
Picture a jet-setter arriving at an airport, unable to find his
passport, and then the joy when a relative rushes up with the missing
papers. There you have a situation paralleling a cremation.
The soul is ready, willing but not able to travel until given its
fiery farewell. .1
It is therefore the happy duty of the relatives to light a fire
under him and get him mobile.
The ritual for a cremation is elaborate and involved, but calls
for certain basic ingredients, including funerary pieces prepared
by expert craftsmen: the tower to transport the body to the cremation
ground and the animal sarcophagus to transport the soul to Paradise.
The tower, usually the more elaborate structure, can rise to a height
of over 50-metres. Built on a base representing the cosmos, topped
with a many-tiered roof, and decorated lavishly with gold foil and
grotesque figurines - the bade as it is known - would be a