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Last Updated: Saturday, 24 July, 2004, 09:27 GMT 10:27 UK
Mass cremation ceremony in Bali
Funeral pyre
Tjok Muter's body was placed inside the model of a bull
A mass cremation ceremony has taken place on the Indonesian island of Bali for a Balinese royal and 52 villagers.

Tjokorda Istri Niyang Muter died in May aged 94. She was the last to die of the 11 children of the old King of Ubud, Tjokorda Gde Sukawati.

Her cremation ceremony was considered a good time for other Balinese to cremate their dead relatives, many of whom died more than four years ago.

Even a modest cremation costs thousands of dollars and takes weeks to prepare.

Cremation is an essential rite of passage for Balinese Hindus, as it is considered a means of releasing the soul from the body so that it can be reincarnated.

Lavish ceremony

Outside the royal palace in the village of Ubud, the body of Tjok Muter was placed in a huge brightly decorated tower, nine tiers tall.

Massive coloured wings stuck out on either side of the 11-ton structure which was carried on the shoulders of 180 men dressed in white shirts and sarongs.

In front and behind, musicians and villagers joined the procession to the cremation site, led by models of a dragon and a big black bull with golden horns and hooves.

The tower was so tall that cables had to be taken down, cutting off electricity and telephone lines.

The body of Tjok Muter was then carefully carried down a bamboo ramp, placed inside the black bull and placed on the funeral pyre.

Thousands of people lined the streets to watch the ceremony, some standing on the roofs of cars and houses to get a better view.

A minor royal was also cremated on Saturday.

On the other side of the village, the 52 villagers were cremated. Some of them had to be exhumed for the ceremony.

Cremations are an occasion for celebration for the Balinese, as they represent the release of their ancestor's spirit, and the accomplishment of their duty.

Bali has long been divided into regencies, each with its own king. Until Indonesia became a republic, these kings ruled the island.

The BBC's Rachel Harvey
"Now her soul is free"

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17 Dec 01  |  Media reports
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