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This year, next year, sometime - Nyepi

But 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.

While 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.

Enough 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.

Meantime, 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 to Paradise.

Both 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 them.

Shouting, 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.

A 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 with the
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"

But 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."

(And 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 western calendar).

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