Saturday, July 16, 2016

Mass Cremation in Ubud

A sarcophagus burns during the mass cremation in Ubud.

I covered a second mass cremation in Ubud. This was actually the cremation I went to Bali to document. I got to Ubud on Wednesday afternoon and photographed the burning of the remains and then went to the cremation area each day to photograph activities related to the cremation ceremony.
The remains are cremated on Wednesday afternoon. The remains were wrapped and then burned while family members and others gathered round and watched. 

When the remains cooled people went through them to pull out bone fragments. The ashes were wrapped and blessed. 

The burning of the remains Wednesday was done without much apparent fanfare. People gathered around the cremation site to watch while men worked large burners connected to gas tanks. When the remains were burned, the ashes were gathered, wrapped and put into small litters. People then gathered in a plaza in front of the local temple for a prayer service. 
Prayers in the plaza in front of the local temple. 

After the prayers, the remains were taken a local river and sent down the river to the sea.
The procession to the river. 
And carrying the remains to the river. This was less than a kilometer from the cremation site. 

The burning of the remains was Wednesday afternoon. On Thursday and Friday people prepared the cremation site for Saturday's main ceremony. Thursday I photographed socializing at the site and blessing the effigies that were burned Saturday. 
Family members gathered on the plaza near the cremation site. The effigies of the people to be cremated were arrayed behind them. This was a time for prayer and reminiscing but it was also very social. Visitors went from family to family chatting. 

Blessing and praying at the effigies. 

I didn't spend much time at the cremation site Friday. I went there early in the morning but I didn't photograph much because I spent most of Friday at the mass cremation outside of Ubud

Saturday was the main event. The day started with Hindu prayers, led by a Brahmin High Priest, at the sarcophagusses in downtown Ubud. Following the prayers teams of men, mostly young men, carried the giant sarcophagusses up to the cremation site. 
A Brahmin priest leads the prayer service at the sarcophagusses.

A woman prays at one of the sarcophagus.

People pray in a pavilion downtown. 

Praying. 

Running up to the cremation site with a sarcophagus. There were dozens of these elaborate sarcophagusses and although there were a couple of close calls, none of them were dropped and none of the boys riding on them fell off. 

The cremation I covered Friday in the countryside prepared me for the cremation in Ubud, which was much bigger and more crowded than Friday's cremation. After the sarcophagusses got to the cremation site, women and men carried the offerings and effigies over to the sarcophagusses. 
Women carry offerings to a sarcophagus...

...A woman holds a portrait of a loved one. 

Men carry an effigy to a sarcophagus

The sarcophagusses were opened, filled with the effigies and offerings, reclosed and set afire. In the countryside all of the sarcophagusses were set alight at the same time, but in Ubud each one was burned individually and local firefighters doused the flames before they consumed more than the sarcophagusses. 

I think this is because the cremation Friday was done in a relatively open space with no nearby structures while the cremation in Ubud was done under a dense forest canopy and very close to several homes (including our hotel, which was literally next to the cremation site). 

Bali is famous for the mass cremations, which have become popular tourist attractions. The Balinese handle the tourist influx with great patience and dignity. If you're interested in going to one, there will be several more cremations in villages across Bali during the rest of July and August but the cremation season will end by September. (But I don't have any specific information on when or where the cremations will be held.) 

There are more photos of Balinese cremations in my archive or available from ZUMA Press

Finally, most of the photos in my archive are available for editorial use or self fulfillment as prints. If you see something you'd like to use or just hang on the wall, click on the "Add to Cart" button and follow the onscreen prompts.