Thursday, 17 July 2008

Justin Mott: Royal Plebon Ceremony

© Justin Mott for The New York Times-All Rights Reserved

The New York Times features a well produced multimedia piece on a royal cremation ceremony in Ubud, Bali with photographs by the talented Justin Mott, and produced by Michael Kolomatsky and Patrick Witty. The accompanying audio of the royal cremation is nicely woven in the sequence of Justin's photographs. You'll hear the lighting of the fire coinciding at precisely the right instant as the photograph of the pyre appears on the screen... in newspapers with deadlines, paying attention to such sync'ing is often not the case.

Jefri Aries, a Balinese photojournalist, announced the event on Lightstalkers a few days ago. On July 15, the Ubud Royal Family held a cremation ceremony for the bodies of two prominent elders of the family. These were Tjokorda Gde Agung Suyasa, head of of the Ubud Royal Family and leader of the traditional community in Ubud since 1976, and Tjokorda Gde Raka, a senior officer in the police force in Denpasar until his retirement in 1992.

The cremation procession and associated ceremonies are rituals of paramount importance in the Hindu rites of passage. During the Royal Plebon Ceremony, the bodies of the deceased were carried through the streets of Ubud by thousands of local people on top of a nine-tiered tower called ‘bade’. The procession was accompanied by an elaborately decorated and venerated bull effigy (Lembu) and a mythical dragon-like creature (Naga Banda), with a five meter-long tail. The naga is reserved for only the elders of the Royal family and is seldom seen in cremation ceremonies.

Seth Mydans wrote the accompanying article Circle of Life

Having led a photo-expedition to Bali last year, I witnessed a number of cremations and affiliated ceremonies, so this brought back many visual flashbacks and memories.