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In Bali, a village with macabre funeral rites resists change

Trunyan (Indonesia) (AFP) - In the village of Trunyan in Bali, when a resident dies, his body is placed under a large banyan tree and slowly decomposes in the open air, until only his skeleton is visible.

Despite the coronavirus pandemic which is shaking up funeral traditions, the inhabitants of this Indonesian village are not ready to change their millennial rites.

Across the Southeast Asian archipelago, funeral ceremonies are accelerated, personnel must wear protective equipment, and hugs with relatives are limited due to physical distancing.

But local authorities say the remote village in northeast Bali has not been affected by the virus, which has infected 8 million people worldwide and killed more than 435,000 people.

"The funeral rites remain the same but we now have to wear masks," says Wayan Arjuna, the village chief located by a lake and overlooked by the imposing Batur volcano.

"We are afraid of catching the virus", but the traditions will not change, he confirms.

The site was however temporarily closed to tourists for fear of contamination.

Unlike the rest of the Balinese, mostly Hindus and who practice cremation, or other Indonesian Christians and Muslims who bury their dead, the inhabitants of Trunyan have specific funeral rites.

They claim to be Hinduism but their beliefs are mixed with animism and traditions specific to the village.

By letting the bodies of their loved ones rest in the open air so that they decompose naturally, they think they will keep the deceased closer to them.

"We feel more connected to those we have lost," says Wayan Arjuna.

"So when my grandmother died, I felt like she was next to me."

Posted Date: 2020-07-05

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