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Death: the Last Taboo - Exhibition Text 2003 - Balinese Cremation

"After someone dies in Bali, the body is either put in the temple or in a special house. The family bring cakes, coffee or whatever we cook for them just as if they were alive. This helps us keep contact with the soul which stays around the body for three days after the death. The whole village helps with the cremation, making offerings and food. We always try to be happy, as this makes it easier for the soul to leave."
"When I die I want to be cremated in Bali in the traditional way. It will be my eldest son's responsibility to organise this."
-- Quotes from Mayuni Utara, 34, Sydney. Originally from Muncan, Bali

Balinese religion is based on respect for and worship of God and ancestors, and is a combination of Hindu elements and Indigenous Balinese culture. After death, the body must be dissolved and returned to its original elements. The cremation ritual is a purification rite which frees the roh (soul or spirit) from its temporary earthly house and facilitates its journey to its next existence.

After a death, the whole village helps with preparations for the cremation. The mayat (dead body) is laid out in a special house to be bathed and prepared. Meals are prepared and offered to the deceased as normal. Around the body and entrance to the house are placed damar kuranung (lamps), which notify people of the death and help facilitate the soul's journey and to keep the person's memory alive.

The night before the cremation, holy water is collected from the temple and used in preparation of the body and during the cremation. Any important ceremonies which have been missed during the deceased's lifetime must be carried out prior to cremation. Some Balinese are buried until the cremation can be organised or to wait for an auspicious date. The bones are exhumed a few days before the cremation then prepared just like a whole body.

All the village unites for the cremation, which is a joyous occasion. After cremation, the ashes are placed in the sea - achieving final separation of the soul from the body.

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