Arriving in Medahan Village, just South of Ubud, I was met by my Balinese friend Ketut. Stepping over gaping holes (and trying not to fall in one), I followed her to the temporary wooden shelves that housed the bones of the deceased. The bones had been exhumed from over thirty graves, cleaned and washed. They had then been wrapped in banana leaf and bamboo, and covered by a small woven mat (tika), made from pandanus leaf and covered with a special white cloth. Little tags hung from each shelf, displaying the name of the deceased and each head faced north.

A Balinese cremation ceremony is considered a public event and, surprisingly, the mood is far from sad. In fact, it’s unusual to see anyone shedding a tear. The Balinese believe the deceased are making their way to the next life, and as they don’t want the soul to be sad, the mood is light and it is on the whole, a joyous event.


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