year, next year, sometime - Nyepi
to press on -
"I was hoping you could join us around 5 o'clock when we make,this
offering," Nyoman continued, "because then you would see
what a Balinese christening is all about."
That evening I sat sipping hot sweet tea with Nyoman in his courtyard,
under an ancient jeruk tree, its fruit swinging above us on stringy
stems like a battery of green cannonballs.
the Royal cremation had been celebrated in unseasonal sunshine,
on the same day, the annual temple festival at Mengwi its most important
event of the year - was completely disrupted by an unprecedented
deluge of rain, blown in on sinister black storm clouds from Gianyar.
about preliminary preparations - now let's check the programme.
On cremation day, as the body ties in state, offerings are made,
mantras said by one or more priests, and refreshment is offered
to each and every guest - all to the joyous tinkling of gamelans.
Finally, the prescribed ritual finished, relatives, dressed in brilliant
brocades, carry the body in its white-swatched casket up a high,
gaily decorated ramp (reminiscent of a ship's gangway) and place
it inside a compartment in the tower.
on standby, so to speak, is the imposing black and gold bull, red
lion - or whatever - which in due course, will ferry the freed soul
tower and bull are now resting on sturday platforms of latticed
bamboo. The priest gives a signal - and hundreds of preselected
men swoop down on the two structures, struggle under the platforms,
and with grunts of pain mixed with shouts of triumph, raise them
shoulder high and stampede towards the cremation ground, spurred
on by a frienzied tattoo from the gamelan gong, panting along beside
sweating and laughing, the music-playing procession arrives at the
cremation ground, the body is removed from the tower and ceremoniously
placed inside the orate sarcophagus. More prayers are said, holy
water sprinkled, the family pay their last respects - the coffin
is set alight. Nearby, the tower now bursts into flame. Spectators
swig their soft drinks and settle down to wait.
few hours later, relatives reverently gather the ashes from the
sarcophagus, and carry them in a subdued procession to the sea (or
river) for purification.
Tradition has been ovserved. The bon voyage party is over and the
soul sped on its way to Paradise. NINE LITTLE CANDLES
"You re just the one I wanted to see," said my friend
Nyoman, strolling across the road to meet me, as I came home from
the market, proudly carrying my latest purchase - a pornographic
chess set.- (take heart - porn pawns have nothing whatever to do
story-they re just tossed in for a spot of local colour).
I was looking for you," continued Nyoman, "because today
is exactly one month and seven days since the birth of our daughter,
so we' , re making an offering giving thanks to the gods for the
first 42days of her life."
Just a minute," I interrupted, laughing apologetically. "Haven't
you got your dates mixed? One month and seven days, even with my
shaky arithmetic, is surely 35 days"
not by our reckoning, "explained Nyoman. "Each month has
35 days - but a week is counted as 7-days, because we use both a
lunar and a solar calendar."
before anyone starts saying that's odd, let me tell you that -there
was a time, not so long ago, when Nyepi, the Balinese New Year,
was celebrated in different districts up to 14-days apart. Now it's
been officially stabilised, and is held every 365 days - as on a