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Alas, poor Nyoman! I Kew Him, Ketut

The Unique Burial Practice of Bali Aga Community at Trunyan, Kintamani

(12/14/2012) Tucked away in a remote corner of the crater lake of Batur at Kintamani, is the ancient village of Kuban where local residents do not bury or cremate their dead, but, instead, leave them to decompose on the open ground.

The burial ground at Trunyan reflects the beliefs of the Bali Aga people of this area, the aboriginal people whose occupation predates the 15th century Hindu-Javanese migration to Bali.

The small cemetery has been the open-air repository of the dead at Trunyan. The skulls of long-departed local residents sit in silent witness on shelves carved into stone cliffs, moved over time to make way for fresh cadavers. Local guides even urge visitors to pose, skull in hand, in a macabre reenactment of the graveyard scene from Hamlet.

The recently deceased are laid out on stones, covered only in cloth, under simple bamboo fencing used to ward off scavengers. Surprisingly, the stench of decomposing bodies is largely absent from the graveyard. Locals credit a nearby ancient banyan tree as magically deodorizing the graveyard, while the more scientifically inclined suggest the carpet of leaves from the tree serve as a natural deodorizer.

Getting There

Access to Kuban and Turnyan is by small boats from the village of Kedisan at Kintamani. Depending on the speed of the boat employed, the trip can take from 15 to 30 minutes and can cost from Rp. 280,000 (US$29) for a canoe to Rp. 480,000 (US$50) for a powerboat.

The walk from the boat dock at village of Kuban to the cemetery takes around 7 minutes.

Alternatively, there is an unimproved twisting road traversing the foothills, passable by car or motorcycle.

Local residents entitled to be buried at the cemetery must meet three criteria. The deceased must meet be "pure," meaning they died due to old age or illness and were married at the time of their death. Others, including children, are disposed of in a separate cemetery.

In the past, visitors wishing to visit Trunyan were victimized and abused by local boat operators, guides and villages who targeted them for extortion. In recent months, however, efforts by local leaders to post the official price for boat and guide services and take action against overly aggressive touts have dramatically improved the tourist experience at Trunyan.

Related Article

[Trunyan Tour by Bali Discovery]

[Make No Bones About It]