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Large Whale Washes Ashore Near Ponjok Batu

Dead Whale Earns Respect and Burial at Sea from Local Residents.

(4/19/2004) Hundreds of people flocked to the beach adjoining the historical North Balinese temple of Pura Ponjok Batu near Tejakula on Saturday, March 17, 2004, to view the remains of a large whale that washed ashore. The dead whale, with an estimated length of 10 meters and a circumference of 6 meters, lay near a sacred water source at Pura Petirtan, a temple just west of Pura Ponjok Batu.

By 2 p.m. on Saturday, hundreds of people had gathered to view the dead mammal with local authorities reporting traffic jams in the area as people drove to the location from adjoining cities upon hearing the news of the large whale's death.

According to reports in the Indonesian-language Bali Post, the whale was discovered floating in the ocean on Friday afternoon by, Kadek Restiasa, and three other local fishermen. The men reportedly towed the whale to shore and immediately informed the priest in charge of the nearby temple.

Concerned to preserve the religious purity of the temple, locals will conduct a purifying mantukang ceremony before towing the whale back out to sea where, weighted with stones and religious offerings, the animal will be returned to the deep. On a spiritual level, this method of disposal will see the whale's mortal and spiritual remains returned to their origin, while on the more practical level remove the rotting carcass from the much-visited temple complex.

Many Balinese attach great meaning to such events, believing they portend an imbalance in the cosmos and fortell coming events. Moreover, the facts that there is no living memory of a similar whale grounding, that heavy winds and rains affected the area on the day of the whale's discovery, and that an earthquake were recorded on Friday night - have all prompted religious and traditional leaders to reflect and seek a deeper meaning from the event.

In deference to God and nature, temple and village authorities have decreed that the whale's remains must not be disturbed prior to their burial at sea and local guards have been deployed to enforce the ruling.

Adding to the gravity being accorded to this event is the report that one villager, shortly after the whale arrived on the beach, tried to use a machete to harvest meat from the whale. Other villagers prevented the man from butchering the whale but not before the man suffered a wound in an attempt to cut the animal's flesh.

A local official was quoted in the local press as saying, "we do not desire to defame the whale's remains, especially as they have washed ashore at a sacred temple."