Ancient Rites Survive On Indonesia's Bali Island

April 26, 2009

Author: Presi Mandari

Source: France24

Wire Service: AFP

Bali's rapid development as a tourist destination has transformed the island's culture, but in the isolated village of Trunyan the dead bear witness to centuries of unbroken tradition.

The proud people of Trunyan don't cremate or bury their dead like other Hindu Balinese -- they lay them out to rot under a sacred banyan tree believed to be the earthly form of a sky goddess.

Nestled beside Lake Batur in the shadow of Mount Abang about 50 kilometres (31 miles) northeast of Denpasar, the village was only accessible by boat until 2006 when an asphalt road was built to connect it to neighbouring settlements.

Traditions dating back at least 800 years survive here while in other parts of Bali they have been forgotten or changed by history.

"All our traditions and ritual practices are inherited from our ancestors," said I Ketut Jaksa, a deputy to the village chief.

"If we violate even a small thing it will cause mishaps like sickness or even death. That's why nobody here in Trunyan dares to change or disobey these practices. That's why we continue to follow these rituals."

A short boat ride north along the shores of the vast lake is the village cemetery. At its centre is an ancient fig tree, considered the sacred incarnation of a goddess who descended from the sky and married a Javanese prince.

Bodies are placed on the ground under the tree, protected from dogs and wild animals by bamboo enclosures.