Monday, July 14, 2008

Bali stops for royal cremation

Hundreds of thousands of people were gathering here Tuesday to cremate two Balinese royals in what promises to be one of the largest funeral rites of its kind in local memory.

Ubud royal family head Tjokorda Gde Agung Suyasa, who died in March after a long illness, and lesser royal Tjokorda Gde Raka who also died in March, will be cremated on a massive hand-crafted pyre representing the universe.

The hill town of Ubud, the cultural capital of mainly Hindu Bali, came to life before dawn with women wearing sarongs and traditional blouses carrying offerings of fruit on their heads to the royal palace.

Neighbourhood chiefs exhorted people over loudspeakers to wake up and get ready for the service, as men gathered at the palace to carry the huge pyre that will be paraded through town around midday.

The royal family of Ubud, a hillside town famous as the heartland of traditional Balinese arts, is one of the most revered royal families on the island.

It is descended from royalty from the neighbouring island of Java who fled the fall of the Hindu Majapahit Empire in the 15th century.

At the start of the funeral procession, the bodies will be brought from the main temple where they have been lying in state since Saturday.

The bodies of 68 commoners, many also dead for months, were dug out of graves on the weekend and cremated in preparation to be included in the procession.

The royal remains will be loaded via bamboo and wood gangways into colourful papier-mache towers called bade. The multi-tiered, demon-covered towers symbolise the three levels of the Balinese Hindu universe.

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