Over the weekend I drove up to Ubud to shoot at the funeral ceremony of Tjokorda Putra Dharma Yudha, a member of the Balinese royal family. Ceremonies such as these are huge and spectacular events with hundreds of people involved in a procession from the palace to the cremation ground. I will post images from the entire ceremony over the next couple of days, but in the meantime I wanted to share a sequence of images showing one of the bearers of the funeral tower, carrying the body of Tjokorda Putra Dharma Yudha, enter a trance.
Many different Balinese Hindu ceremonies involve some form of trance whereby the adherents become possessed by a spirit, however this is the first time I have seen it with my own eyes. I was standing close to the base of the tower when it reached its final destination at the cremation ground. Amidst all the celebrations I noticed one of the bearers start to scream and violently attack the base of the tower, seemingly trying to pull off a flag and corner of the platform. The other bearers noticed what was happening and tried to pull him off, but it took several of the man’s friends and pecalang (traditional Balinese security at ceremonies) before they finally managed to restrain him. Initially he was struggling violently but as he was led away into the crowd his body became completely rigid.
I will not speculate how and why people enter such trance-like states, but in this case the physical exertion of carrying the tower through the town in the heat and sun, combined with the energy of the event must both be major contributing factors.