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Take That, You Dirty Rat

Balinese Village Holds Elaborate Cremation Ceremonies for Hundreds of Exterminated Rats.

(3/19/2011) Bali's elaborate cremation ceremonies used in the final disposition of human remains, also has a special variant reserved for rats. A ngaben tikus or rat cremation ceremony held by the people of Cemagi village, Mengwi on March 15, 2011 was conducted to help exorcise both the physical and spiritual presence of evil forces which damage local crops.

As reported by Kompas.com, the people of Cemagi view the rat cremation, known as a Marataka Mrana Tikus, as an important ritual in their efforts to maintain balance in the cosmos. "In addition to helping to expel unwanted rodents, the ‘ngaben' is based on our belief that all living creatures must be returned to nature even though it is us who have killed these animals," explained local community leader, I Nyoman Renda, who attended the cremation.

The hundred of rats to be cremated were captured by local farmers in their fields. Also placed on the funeral pyre were the remains of large snails, bugs, land crabs and snakes captured in their fields and capable of causing harm to essential food crops.

The process of cremating the rats resembles in many ways the ceremony used for human cremation. Officiated over by 5 religious leaders, the corpses of the rats were placed on a sacrificial altar (bade) that was carried on the shoulders of local men to the village graveyard. At the graveyard, the rats were transferred to a large wooden effigy of a cow that was eventually set afire.

"We hope that after the rats are cremated they will be born again to a more nobler status and not have to live on the earth again as a pestilence," explained Renda.

When the funeral fires had died, the ashes of the rats were reverently carried to the nearby ocean where they were committed to the waves by a Hindu priest.

The "ngaben tikus" ceremony is held once every ten years and cost an estimated Rp. 400 million (US$44,500) that was funded by local donations supplemented with money from the regional government of Badung.