cremation ceremony in Lombok

cremation ceremony in Lombok

February 27, 2015

woman's cremation ceremony

Indonesia is place of many ceremonies, at least in Hindu community. During our travel in Bali and Lombok we have experienced several ceremonies for different occasion. However, the one we found the most interesting so far was cremation ceremony near Senggigi in Lombok. We have been invited to attend this ceremony by Hwayan a security guard in a homestay where we were staying.

We travelled about one hour on scooter from Senggigi to a home village of Hwayan. When we arrived, ceremony was just about to start. As honoured guests we were welcomed by extended family, neighbours, friends and widower himself.  Immediately we had been offered refreshment and showed around. In a backyard was already small gathering of people chatting and praying while orchestra of about 15-20 musicians were playing traditional cremation songs.  Shortly, after lunch of pork, rice and vegetable now large group of people about 60-100 set themselves on a walk to nearby cremation place located in middle of a forest.  There was a clearing between trees where stood two constructions. First was rather large shelter built from bricks and concrete that served to accommodate all people taking part in ceremony and about 20m from it stood concrete base where the cremation took place.

The parade walked from the house of the deceased person to this concrete base where decorated bed containing body was placed, followed by about 30 min preparations and setting up for fire. Then the body was set on fire and everybody was watching while orchestra was playing.  I don’t remember what my expectations of burning body were at the time. However, I was told that it would take about 2-3 hours to burn. During that time ceremony appeared to me to be quiet a social event. There were balloons to entertain children and alcohol made of palm water (not very tasty) to entertain adults.  During this whole time event was accompanied by spiritual songs sung and played on traditional instruments consisting metal plates attached to a wooden stand and hammers.

When the body and bed was finally all burned to ashes group of people with bare hands searched through the ashes for remains of bones which then they collected into special containers.  Remaining people then formed parade leading back to the house where ceremony continued with more prayers.

Once all the prayers were ended we all got onto our scooters and in to cars and travelled one hour to a Senggigi beach where ashes were released into the water.

The whole ceremony took about 7 hours.

We have learned later that it is normal for ceremonies to take up to whole day and that it is ok to leave during the ceremony as long as one doesn’t disturb others. There are ceremonies for all sorts of occasions. We have so far closely experienced Lombok Hindu annual festival/ceremony, cremation ceremony, full moon ceremony and opening ceremony for new villa.

I was very vigilant to take photos as I was trying to be respectful to people taking part in a ceremony. However, to my big surprised we were encouraged to take photographs, ask questions, eat, drink etc. It seemed to me that the family was proud to have foreigners witnessing and documenting their customs.

As foreign observer with design background I took note of lovely traditional outfits. Men wearing traditional woven or batik head piece, shirt and sarong. Women wearing embroidery or lace top, waist scarf and sarong.

Also, handmade vessels and objects made of palm leafs and flowers are prominent. Some creations look simple and some very complicated. Most of them seem to be disposable. Perhaps due to this short function, you can see their production on almost every corner at any time one has a minute in between other jobs.  I have learned that purchase of these ceremonial objects that later are disposed can be surprisingly pricy!


Photos by Radka Passianova and Lubos Passian


{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 karin March 7, 2015 at 12:37 pm

Thanks for the detailed report, so interesting! As a foreigner were you expected to dress in traditional garments as well?
I can’t wait to see hoe this inspiring experience in Indo translates into your artwork Radka….

2 Prab March 7, 2015 at 10:13 pm

Nice article. Some sections reminds me of Sri Lankan cremation ceremonies in old days.

3 Radka March 8, 2015 at 2:21 am

thank you guys for your input! Karin, no, for the cremation ceremony we weren’t expected to wear traditional garments, but Lubos and I made sure that we are dressed modestly wearing long pants and long sleeve top. However, for the new villa opening ceremony, the owner who invited us has offered to me to lend me her traditional garment to wear. I thought this was her subtle way to tell me that is what I should be wearing… I did:-)

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: