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Colorful Balinese

The island Hindu religious leaders are saddened to see more and more local people start wearing black clothing during Balinese traditional funeral ceremonies. This western tradition, mainly ‘imported’ through Hollywood movies, is against Balinese Hindu belief: death is not an end or punishment, rather a golden bridge to heaven, to begin a new life in a different, better dimension. Death also gives humans the opportunity to improve their life qualities through reincarnation. Rather than grieving death, Balinese celebrate.

Funeral cremations are held in the same wondrous, bright manner as daily activities. This attitude of celebrating even sad events is well portrayed the way clothing is chosen.

Golden, colorful, brilliant, bright and sometime contrasting are the nuances of traditional Balinese attires. Even in a funeral ceremony brilliant colors should be chosen instead of dark-black shirts. The Hindu religious body often staged fashion show featuring not latest style, but promoting colorful funeral clothing, to counter the “imported” tradittion.

Indeed Balinese are taught to accept life, or death, in happiness. “Expect the best, prepare for the worst, accept the result stoically” is the golden rule that keeps Balinese smiling, in all stages of their life. Balinese express happiness and sadness almost in similar manner. Frequently during cremation periods there are parties and dances.

Uniquely, dances, songs, games and often gambling are not aimed at offending family members, rather to entertain them and put their sadness aside.

If, for example, a road accident claims a life, the family often simply accepts it as the way it goes. Instead of quarreling for compensation, most Balinese accept it as a fate.

In the past, most wives especially of Rajahs, would jump into the fire on the husband’s funeral pyre, to show their love and devotion. Before jumping, they dressed in the finest, colorful costume and make ups and smiled at celebrative mourners to show that they were happy to do this. This tradition, known as masatya or labuh geni, was abandoned since Dutch colonist banned the practice when they captured Bali in 1906.

Balinese avoid dark or black clothing as the color is often associated with black magic, evil spirit and peace disturbance. In contrast, white is believed as the color of peaceful spirit. Yellow (or golden yellow) also is a favorite as this represents God Wisnu, the preserver of the universe.

Golden yellow is the dominant color in many ritual ceremonies. Gold portrays happiness and prosperity and is color chosen to represent hope for better life. This is best portrayed in a wedding ceremony. There will be no grooms in black suit as in Western culture, instead both bride and groom are “decorated” with rather excessive golden accessories. The gold evokes prosperity for the couple’s future.

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