We were very fortunate to be in Ubud for a royal cremation. There have been one or two of these big events in the last couple of years, but this was the first we had seen.
In Bali cremation ceremonies are a big deal, and an even bigger deal when it is someone in a high caste or wealthy family. This cremation ceremony was in honor of Ir.Tjokorda Raka Sukawati, a member of the Royal Household who died at age 83 on November 11, 2014
We made our way to the main street and found a restaurant to sit and wait for the action to come past us. The procession started at the Royal Palace, passing along Ubud’s main road with thousands of onlookers, locals and tourists, lining the street.
First in line was a procession of military, police and other uniformed dignitaries, a couple of young girls being carried along, then the small bull, then the large bull, then lastly the almighty tower.
The black bull (or bulls in this case) become the funeral pyre that is burned at the end of the day. The impressive bulls are made of bamboo, then covered in velvet and then decorated. The bulls and tower have a large bamboo base that accommodates between a hundred and a thousand men, who all do their bit to carry the structure.
There is a lot of effort put into the preparation of the heavily decorated cremation tower (bade), which was 24 metres high. There were a couple of guys sitting part way up the tower, which must have been a frightening place to be.
It must have been hard work to move. They only move for a short distance before taking a rest. Their struggle was evident as they passed by us. Navigating down the street and dodging all the obstacles was also a challenge. At one point in front of us, there was a no parking sign post that needed to be completely removed to allow the platform to pass. There was also a few trees knocked down long the way!
A large crowd followed on behind. The procession continued to a temple where the ritual burning occurred. We did not see that, but we hear it is pretty spectacular too.
Here is a video we took as the tower went past.