For the past few weeks in Ubud, people have been talking non-stop about the upcoming cremation ceremony for Cokorda Putra Widura, a member of the royal family. As someone from the west, used to funerals being sombre affairs held shortly after death, it’s been startling to appreciate the sense of anticipation that has surrounded the event. I actually felt a little uncomfortable about attending as a gawking spectator who knows nothing about the royal family or the culture. However, the enthusiasm of the people I’ve been speaking to convinced me to go. People seemed to be excited both for the event itself and for the opportunity for me, as a tourist, to see it.
Over the last week or so, we’ve seen the huge, jewelled black bull (which will eventually be the sarcophagus) go up outside the palace, followed by the 25-metre high pagoda that will transport the body to the cemetery, and the steeply sloping bridge that will allow the bearers to convey the body to the top of the tower. The latter two were built from bamboo – being both lighter and stronger than wood – and wrapped in strips of white cloth. The pagoda was progressively decorated during the week, becoming increasingly ornate and stunning.
The 25 metre-high pagoda with the bridge on the left
The highly ornate bull
From the front, with the bamboo poles that will be used to transport it
On the morning of the ceremony, crowds gathered in central Ubud, lining the procession route from around 10 AM, while street vendors sold sarongs to the tourists. The mood felt festive and good natured as people waited to carry the pagoda and sarcophagus.
At around midday, the body , in a simple white box was carried up the steep slope with difficulty by several bearers and placed on its bed on the pagoda, and a short while after, the procession began.