The Central Balinese Principality of Ubud is awash with activities in preparation for the large-scale Palace Cremation ceremony scheduled to be held there on Saturday, July 24, 2004.
The Plebon or cremation of the last of the 11 children of Ubud's Prince Tjokorda Gde Sukawati, automatically mandated that elaborate preparations have been underway since May 6 when the 94-year-old Ibu Tjokorda Istri Niyang Muter passed away, leaving behind 2 children, 8 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren. The twin-sister of Tjokorda Gde Agung Sukawati who assumed the head of Ubud's Palace when the old Prince died, Ibu Muter, who was born in 1910, saw Ubud transform from a sleepy hillside village into a Mecca of art and culture, the adopted second-home of artists from across Indonesia and around the world.
Touted by many as likely to be the largest cremation ceremony on the island in 25 years, this will be likely be one of the last genuinely Grand Palace cremations. Seen as an auspicious day for a rite of passage - the cremation of Ibu Muter will also be the occasion for the mass-cremation of the disinterred remains of at least 52 other people who have recently died in the 5 banjars or communities that surround Ubud's Palace.
A giant, intricately carved bull or lembu is being lovingly prepared to be set alight holding Ibu Muter's remains on its heavenly flight. The Bull and a giant tower, or bade, will be paraded through the village streets to the place selected for cremation - all led by a rarely-seen model of a dragon or naga banda, an honor reserved for a direct descendent of the Palace Household.
Elaborate ceremonies mark the days leading up to the cremation and for several weeks after the event. The public is generally welcome to attend many of these events and observe one of Bali's most revered religious rituals.
While rules of respectful reverence and decorum are de rigueur at every Balinese ceremony, specific rules of dress and behavior are even more emphatic at a ceremony with Palace trappings.
Foreign visitors wishing to view the Palace Cremation are strongly urged to contact Bali Discovery Tours or one of Bali's other leading local tour operators who can advise and assist those wishing to respectfully attend this important event.
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