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    Tropical Heat Tour: Bali Part 26

    Saturday, July 28, 2012
    Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

    A fierce dragon / lion / horse hybrid with wings rules the staging area of the royal cremation ceremony in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia.

    An elephant dolphin from Hell relaxes in the staging area of the royal cremation ceremony in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia.

    Two priests conduct a ritual during the royal cremation ceremony in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia.

    This morning, I woke up early before my alarm even went off, as an overcast, drizzling sky threatened to cast a pall on the cremation ceremony for Tjokorda Putra Di Armayudha, a member of Ubud’s royal family. So, I unfurled my umbrella and struck out toward the center of town in front of Ubud Palace, arriving there around 8:30 am. There was already a fair amount of people milling around, including a bunch of police and even military officers. Of course, tons of hawkers pushing sarongs, udengs and souvenirs were everywhere, constantly hitting up tourists. One guy was walking around trying to sell a wood carving of a Harley Davidson motorcycle, which seemed so absurd. As the sun had come out, I shot some photos of a few more fanciful creatures built for the procession that I hadn’t seen before, including a fierce dragon / lion / horse hybrid with wings and a very unusual elephant / dolphin combo that was mean-looking yet somehow whimsical at the same time.

    Two priests conduct a ritual during the royal cremation ceremony in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia.

    The lady from Jakarta who runs a small pizza joint in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia.

    As more and more Balinese and tourists began to gather over the next hour or two, the first ceremony got underway when two priests staged a ritual in front of the giant bull and cremation tower. At this point, I decided to head toward the procession destination, Pura Dalem Puri, about three-quarters of a mile East. I stopped for a bite to eat at a tiny joint that sells pizza slices. The cute little lady who owns the place is from Jakarta, Java and spent three years living in Italy with some relatives. At first, I thought it was just a walk-up, but then realized they had a few funny-looking little chairs and tables inside. The whole place was adorable–just like its owner. Since the slices were kind of small, I followed ’em up with another veggie burrito, which is also kind of small, until I finally felt full, then went to stake out a spot for the procession.

    Jalon Raya Ubud, as seen from the entrance to Pura Dalem Puri during the royal cremation ceremony in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia.

    The bull makes a grand entrance during the royal cremation ceremony in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia.

    I saw a guy posted up with a tripod on top of a 12 ft. high wall at the driveway of Pura Dalem Puri, so I walked up there to check the view. I stood behind Tripod Guy and realized that this wall offered a really good vantage point to shoot photos and video of the procession, so I decided to stay there. After a while, the wall on the opposite side of the driveway and the street below started to get crowded with people. I saw a couple of elderly tourists about 30 feet away walking up behind me, closing in on my territory, so I moved up right behind Tripod Guy, because I knew they would stand there if I didn’t. Sure, enough, they fell in place right behind me. By this time, it was a little after 12:00 noon, and the sky was clear, brandishing a fierce, stinging sun. Luckily, I had on sunblock, a hat and, like Tripod Guy, held my umbrella above myself for a while. The old lady behind me asked if I was going to take down my umbrella during showtime, and I said, “Of course.” Then I showed her where I planned to hold my camera so she wouldn’t bitch at me to move it later at crucial moments.

    The dragon and tower finally arrive at the royal cremation ceremony in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia.

    A vast river of humanity veers from the street into the royal cremation ceremony at Pura Dalem Puri in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia.

    As time wore on, a pretty big crowd began to build up behind us, because the procession was due to start at Ubud Palace at 1:00 pm and make its toward Pura Dalem Puri. The air became electrified as the front of the procession finally arrived upon the scene, which included a group of women carrying offerings on their heads and men carrying two women on chariots who were dressed to the nines in purple, clutching their own offerings. Next, as a deafeningly loud gamelan bashed away on the street, dozens of porters bearing the giant bull appeared upon the scene, then set it down at the intersection of Jalon Raya Ubud and Pura Dalem Puri’s driveway. A bunch of guys tossed bottles of water to the porters. No sooner had they swallowed the water, the porters then raised the giant assemblage and ran it up the drive into the grounds of the temple as throngs of people spilled in behind them.

    This is the douchebag who shoved me during the royal cremation ceremony at Pura Dalem Puri in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia.

    A casket containing the body of Tjokorda Putra Di Armayudha is lowered from the tower during the royal cremation ceremony at Pura Dalem Puri in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia.

    During this whole time, even more people had surged up behind us, and another old lady had her arms all over Tripod Guy’s back, trying to shoot photos from right beside his head. A bit later, he had enough of all of this chaos and disrespect, grabbed his gear and went somewhere else. Someone was likewise pressed up against my back for a while. After a few minutes, I turned around and noticed the elderly couple was gone, replaced by a young, French-speaking guy. Concerned that I might get knocked off the top of the 12 ft. high wall, I asked him to shuffle back an inch or two, but instead of being reasonable and doing that, he rudely told me that if I didn’t like where I was standing, I should just move. I confronted him about it again a few minutes later, and he said it was his pack that was pushing against me. Then another guy started pressing against my left shoulder. When I looked around, I noticed there was no one behind him or on the other side of him pushing him into me. Like the first guy, he was just doing it all by himself.

    A casket containing the body of Tjokorda Putra Di Armayudha is carried up to the bull during the royal cremation ceremony at Pura Dalem Puri in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia.

    People offer last gifts to Tjokorda Putra Di Armayudha during the royal cremation ceremony at Pura Dalem Puri in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia.

    I felt really uneasy, as I was standing with my feet against a small rock “wall” that was about a foot high with no railing and a 12 ft. vertical drop just a few inches away from me. I leaned a bit to my left into that guy’s shoulder to avoid getting shoved off. When he refused to give way, I asked him if he could move to the left an inch or two, but the douchebag told me in another French accent that if I didn’t like where I was standing, I should move. Then I explained he was about to knock me off the top of the wall, and he got angry and jabbed my arm with his elbow, shoving me as he tried to wedge himself in front of my body. But, I wouldn’t let him. I just elbowed his arm right back and stayed where I was. I was so pissed, I wanted to punch his lights out. But, if I did that, I would just end up in an Indonesian jail and / or be forced to pay a huge bribe to the police–neither of which is a very pleasant proposition. I was reminded of a fake Buddhist saying that goes, “You won’t be punished for your anger, you’ll be punished by your anger.” So, I just kept my cool and continued shooting photos.

    The top of the bull is put back on during the royal cremation ceremony at Pura Dalem Puri in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia.

    The bull containing the body of Tjokorda Putra Di Armayudha is finally ignited during the royal cremation ceremony at Pura Dalem Puri in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia.

    Next in line came a podium bearing the big, ornate dragon, which surprisingly hightailed it around the corner and galloped straight into Pura Dalem Puri without stopping, followed by the 30 ft. tall cremation tower containing Tjokorda Putra Di Armayudha’s body. Like the bull, the dozens of men bearing the tower stopped at the intersection, but this time, they turned the huge structure to and fro once or twice to confuse Armayudha’s spirit so it couldn’t find its way back home, ensuring a smooth passage into the next world, to be reincarnated later. After setting it down for a short rest, the men raised the tower up again and rushed it into the temple grounds, as an astonishing river of humanity that filled the street from side to side flowed in behind them. Inside, the masses sat around on stairs, walls and a pavilion as hawkers plied their trade and the cremation ceremony proceeded. Over the next hour or so, the Balinese carried a casket containing Armayudha’s body out of the tower, down a huge bamboo ramp and up another smaller ramp to the bull, which they cut open on top to place it inside. Then scores of people brought offerings to the base of the bull, which were handed from man to man up the steep bamboo ramp and placed inside. A few dignitaries even climbed up, with a lot of assistance, to make their own offerings.

    The bull containing the body of Tjokorda Putra Di Armayudha burns brightly during the royal cremation ceremony at Pura Dalem Puri in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia.

    The bull containing the body of Tjokorda Putra Di Armayudha burns brightly alongside the dragon during the royal cremation ceremony at Pura Dalem Puri in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia.

    After the top of the bull was put back in place. a bunch of flammable material was placed underneath, and a man hosed it down with a flame accelerant. Then a couple of other guys ignited ceremonial sticks and placed them underneath the bull. The flames immediately rose up inside, quickly transforming the whole structure into an awe-inspiring towering inferno of incinerated royal death. As I shot photos, ashes literally spackled my whole body, and when I really began to feel the heat, I beat a quick retreat a few feet further away from the glowing funeral pyre. A few minutes later, as the flames died down somewhat, a man aimed a big flamethrower directly at Tjokorda Putra Di Armayudha’s body and completely blasted it with orange fire. Finally, after a short while of this harsh treatment, the structure gave way, sending Armayudha’s body crashing to the base below. It’s a shame my camera displayed a “memory card full” message right at that exact moment! After that point, I was feeling pretty burned out myself and headed back to my room for a nap, and to reflect back upon one of the most amazing spectacles I’ve ever seen in my life.

    A man aims a flamethrower at the body of Tjokorda Putra Di Armayudha during the royal cremation ceremony at Pura Dalem Puri in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia.

    The body of Tjokorda Putra Di Armayudha keeps on a-burning during the royal cremation ceremony at Pura Dalem Puri in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia.

    An overview of the royal cremation ceremony at Pura Dalem Puri in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia.

    Read a little more about Balinese cremation ceremonies.

    Roll over photos for captions.
    Words and photos ©2012 Arcane Candy.

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