A Royal Farewell

Royal cremations are always spectacular, but the one held in Ubud today was also an historical event. The first non-Balinese ever to be accorded the honour was sent on her way to meet her ancestors.

We have been watching the preparations outside the palace for the past couple of weeks. It is normal, when a member of the Royal Family dies, that these preparations are public. Over time the tower and the bull are constructed with each banjar* in Ubud having a time-honoured, specific role to play. Elaborate as it all is, everybody knows exactly what their task is, as generations before have preceded them doing exactly the same job. A friend’s banjar is responsible for the staircase, for example. And like everything cultural here, it all seems to be absorbed by osmosis.

It was only yesterday that we learned that this cremation was for Nelly Sukawati, the 98-year-old wife of the late, much-loved Tjokorda Ngurah Wim Sukawati (modern spelling is Cokorda, and indicates royalty). Dutchwoman Nelly Luchsinger’s story is here, a loving tribute written by her family. The photo of the handsome young couple is worth the click alone, but their story is a Balinese fairytale, one that lasted for 64 years.

We had attended the Tjorkoda’s cremation in 2013. Like today, that morning was bright, but just as the procession was leaving the palace a downpour came from seemingly nowhere, engulfing everything. My camera was waterlogged and none of the photos I had taken could be salvaged.

No photos from me for this event either because of illness, but the Boy Reporter offered to walk up early and take some shots. Morning sunshine is also threatening more of the rain we are all tired of, but if that happens it would be an almost-fitting  echo of the Tjokorda’s farewell.

Eddie did not stay long, but once the body is brought to the tower (much gamelan music and a great deal of general noise), the procession heads to the cremation ground about a kiilometre away. The bull and the tower are carried on bamboo litters by hundreds of men – one man per each square; the scale can be seen in the photos.

Once Ubud Now and Then has posted their professional gallery, I will add the link for a better overview.

Vale Nelly Sukawati.

* a banjar is the basic social group of Balinese society. A village is comprised of a number of banjars. The main function these days is concerned with temple ceremonies, but before the government standardised services, banjars were fairly self-sufficient.


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