Bodies Under the Stars

Bamboo cages to keep the citters out at Trunyan

Bali is only a few miles away from its much larger neighbor to the West, Java, separated by the easily traversed 2.3km Bali Strait. Bali is a really nice place and the Javanese discovered this early. No surprise, then, that the vast majority of today’s Balinese are actually transplanted people from Java whose forebearers crossed the strait generations before. The culturally beloved Balinese are, genetically speaking, old Java guys in disguise.

That is, except for the pure Balinese found in just two Bali Aga – or pure Bali -villages. One village, Tenganan, is known for its double loom weaving and for its rather limiting social stipulation that requires village women only marry village men or face a kind of ex-communication from the village and their families. Tough stuff: 96 young women for 107 young men. The blood and the tradition must be kept pure.

The second Bali Aga village is Trunyan, where a short boat ride away is their funereal temple at Kubanan. This pure Bali village practices the unusual tradition of above-ground disposition of their dead. The site is protected by a huge tree thought to posess powers that prevent the decomposing bodies from smelling. The villagers believe this, my family does not. Under the tree is a row of bamboo cages into which individual bodies are placed to prevent scavenging by local critters. The dead bodies have no covering save whatever clothes they were placed there in. The ground is covered with trash from ceremonial offerings and lots old flip flops, shirts, femurs, ribs and skulls from previous residents. It is morbid, demystifying, riveting and grody all at once. The olfactory and visual shock sends the kids scurrying almost immediately. Dana and I linger and I watch one of the villagers carelessly kick someone’s large leg bone on his way back to our little boat.

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

Moss grows fast in the moist Indonesian climate

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2 Responses to “Bodies Under the Stars”

  1. that must of been very creepy to see all the bones but it also must have been very cool

  2. Hi Coach!
    It looks very…cool. It also looks kind of gross, but, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”.

    Micah 😉