Sometimes, in the early mornings, especially after a particularly heavy overnight rain shower, and before I unroll my yoga mat, I like to saunter out to the front terrace and survey the landscape. I’m always greeted with a surprise or two. A flurry of pink-petaled frangipani that rained down or a couple of caterpillars on the slow move. A pair of butterflies swooping by, clearly in courting mode – blissfully unaware of (or undisturbed by) my presence.
An outstretched snail progressing ever so slowly along the edge, poking around its antennae every so often – at a leaf or tiny pebble in its path. And, most distinctive of all, with moth-like dedalus having fallen to their nightly and anticipated death on the ground (a clear indication that rainy season is in full swing), an army of ants nibbling away at the wings and innards of their much-prized prey.
Once in awhile, after facing a battery of power outages, water seepages and cloud coverage; when a couple of weeks of regular downpours have greened our surroundings, doused sidewalks, splashed legs with puddle-mud from speeding bikes; when one has become re-accustomed to the army of overgrown spiders and light-seeking dedalus that have taken refuge in your home; and has grown tired of waiting 4-7 days until clothing has dried out, then you see signs of an upcoming cremation.
And because it’s a high caste or royal cremation (pelebon), in this case being that of a recently deceased elderly member of the Royal Household, Tjokorda Raka Sukawati, you can rest assured that the sun will shine.
Bring on the rain stoppers! The royals wouldn’t let rain stand in their way of such an event, so they engage high priests or shamans known to hold mysterious powers that keep the rain away. So, although the men who decorated the stupendous 24-meter high cremation tower (bade) were forced, after relentless rainy days, to stay up the last two nights and work in shifts to complete them in time, it was a foregone conclusion that the sun would shine on the cremation.
And, despite grey clouds hovering and threatening nearby, shine it did.
Until shortly after the corpse was burnt, the two smaller local cremations (ngaben) – wisely coinciding with the pelebon – had concluded, and families, friends and tourists had returned to their homes. Then the clouds rolled back in and with a fury, unleashed water that had been bottled up and restrained – as if to honor the last rites and passage of the dead.