Preparing for the Cremation
The day for the cremation has to be selected carefully by the Hindu priest (as not all days are suitable for cremation). The series of preparations needed are done cooperatively as this can become a huge event drawing in thousands of people that will come and take part in it depending on the social status of the deceased.
The ceremony will require a temporary shelter for all the guests to do all the work. The men are responsible for doing some heavy work, while the women will be making the offerings.
A unique casket or sarcophagus (known as “Patulangan or Palinggihan”) is built in the shape of an animal such as a bull, cow, lion, deer, or elephant, depending on the gender, caste and status of the deceased (varna). It must be made from scratch so to speak and will be used to cremate the body. Hindus believe that Patulangan is used by the spirits of the dead as a vehicle to heaven. The animal figure chosen must have four legs as it symbolises the four spiritual siblings known as “Kanda Empat”. A bull casket are used for men, while a cow is for women. The bull for example is known as the vehicle of the God Shiva (The God of death and destruction), is considered very prestigious and used for male Brahmanas (Holy priests).
The villagers need to construct a cremation tower (known as “Wadah” or “Bade”). This tower (pagoda-style structure) has several architectural elements that symbolize the Balinese universe. The turtle and dragon at the base of the tower represent the underworld; above it will be the world of man is depicted by a painting of leafy forests and mountains. At the very top, another pagoda-like structure called Meru, will represent heaven. It is possible for the tower to be as tall as 10 or 20 meters, depending on the deceased’s wealth and social standing.