The Reincarnation of the Queen of Ubud

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The public appearance of tribal warriors on the doorsteps of Ubud’s royal palace marked the beginning of the cremation ceremony of the Queen of Ubud. Tjokorda Istri Sri Tjandrawati was deceased on the 14th of October 2013.  In Bali’s Hindu tradition, the transition between her worldly farewells and reincarnation is marked by an elaborate ceremony that unites the community in a spectacular and cohesive expression of respect.

It is an obligation for each member of the city to participate in the preparation and the execution of the rites.  The night before we were welcomed inside the private palace, know as Puri Ubud, by Tjokorda Gde Raka Sukawati, third brother of the current King. He explained to me the order of events.

In Bali, every day life is entwined with artistic expressions and paced by rites and religious ceremonies. Every village takes its pride in supporting local artists, wether they are sculptors, painters, dancers and musicians, to produce the crafts for the traditional celebrations. Resorting to other villages’ resources is considered dishonour. This explains the profusion and richness of Balinese artistic production. Ubud is considered Bali’s capital of the Arts.

The celebrations to farewell the Queen easily met the expectations raised by the artistic status of Ubud. The third brother of the King, Gde Raka Sukawati personally directed the design and building of a 26 metre high tower comprising of 6000 kg of timber, bamboo and cloth, where the Queens’s coffin was placed via a specially build bamboo ramp. A gathering of 5000 men from different clans of Ubud and its surrounding region were commissioned to carry the tower to the cemetery. They took turns 150 at a time.

A giant purple bull was also built here the Queen’s body was placed, once extracted from the coffin. The bull was first set ablaze followed by the monumental tower. The queen’s ashes were then purified with holy water and taken to Sanur, on the coast, to be scattered in the sea.

The purification ceremony allowed the return of the elements that form life (soil, water, light and space) to the universe allowing Cok Sri Bulan ’s soul – as the Queen was called – to reincarnate.

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This article is also available in French.

Copyright words: Jacques Maudy, photos: Julie André and Jacques Maudy / The Tribe Press Agency

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