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Jakarta Post

Bali's open-air burials endure despite COVID-19 crisis

Mon, June 22, 2020   /   10:27 am
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    This picture taken on February 20, 2020 show a Balinese temple on the shores of Lake Batur near the village of Trunyan, home to the Trunyanese - who fuse animist beliefs and traditional village customs with their own interpretation of Hinduism - in Bangli Regency on Indonesia's Bali island. - For centuries Bali's Trunyanese people have left their dead to decompose in the open air, the bodies placed in bamboo cages until only the skeletons remain -- a ritual they haven't given up -- even as the COVID-19 pandemic upends burial practices worldwide. AFP/Sonny Tumbelaka

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    This picture taken on February 20, 2020 shows skulls on display with offerings at a cemetery where Bali's Trunyanese people hold open-air burials - before restrictions were implemented due to the COVID-19 coronavirus - near the village of Trunyan in Bangli Regency, near Lake Batur on Bali island. - For centuries Bali's Trunyanese people have left their dead to decompose in the open air, the bodies placed in bamboo cages until only the skeletons remain -- a ritual they haven't given up -- even as the COVID-19 pandemic upends burial practices worldwide. AFP/Sonny Tumbelaka

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    This picture taken on February 20, 2020 shows a photo of one of the deceased next to bamboo cages which cover bodies at a cemetery where Bali's Trunyanese people hold open-air burials - before restrictions were implemented due to the COVID-19 coronavirus - near the village of Trunyan in Bangli Regency, near Lake Batur on Bali island. - For centuries Bali's Trunyanese people have left their dead to decompose in the open air, the bodies placed in bamboo cages until only the skeletons remain -- a ritual they haven't given up -- even as the COVID-19 pandemic upends burial practices worldwide. AFP/Sonny Tumbelaka

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    This picture taken on February 20, 2020 shows items left from ceremonial offerings for use in the afterlife scattered on the ground at a cemetery where Bali's Trunyanese people hold open-air burials - before restrictions were implemented due to the COVID-19 coronavirus - near the village of Trunyan in Bangli Regency, near Lake Batur on Bali island. - For centuries Bali's Trunyanese people have left their dead to decompose in the open air, the bodies placed in bamboo cages until only the skeletons remain -- a ritual they haven't given up -- even as the COVID-19 pandemic upends burial practices worldwide. AFP/Sonny Tumbelaka

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    This picture taken on February 20, 2020 shows skulls at a cemetery where Bali's Trunyanese people hold open-air burials - before restrictions were implemented due to the COVID-19 coronavirus - near the village of Trunyan in Bangli Regency, near Lake Batur on Bali island. - For centuries Bali's Trunyanese people have left their dead to decompose in the open air, the bodies placed in bamboo cages until only the skeletons remain -- a ritual they haven't given up -- even as the COVID-19 pandemic upends burial practices worldwide. AFP/Sonny Tumbelaka

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    This picture taken on February 20, 2020 shows the body of a deceased at a cemetery where Bali's Trunyanese people hold open-air burials - before restrictions were implemented due to the COVID-19 coronavirus - near the village of Trunyan in Bangli Regency, near Lake Batur on Bali island. - For centuries Bali's Trunyanese people have left their dead to decompose in the open air, the bodies placed in bamboo cages until only the skeletons remain -- a ritual they haven't given up -- even as the COVID-19 pandemic upends burial practices worldwide. AFP/Sonny Tumbelaka

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    This picture taken on February 20, 2020 shows items (bottom) left from ceremonial offerings for use in the afterlife scattered on the ground next to bamboo cages which cover bodies at a cemetery where Bali's Trunyanese people hold open-air burials - before restrictions were implemented due to the COVID-19 coronavirus - near the village of Trunyan in Bangli Regency, near Lake Batur on Bali island. - For centuries Bali's Trunyanese people have left their dead to decompose in the open air, the bodies placed in bamboo cages until only the skeletons remain -- a ritual they haven't given up -- even as the COVID-19 pandemic upends burial practices worldwide. AFP/Sonny Tumbelaka

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    This picture taken on February 20, 2020 shows foreign tourists visit a cemetery where Bali's Trunyanese people hold open-air burials - before restrictions were implemented due to the COVID-19 coronavirus - near the village of Trunyan in Bangli Regency, near Lake Batur on Bali island. - For centuries Bali's Trunyanese people have left their dead to decompose in the open air, the bodies placed in bamboo cages until only the skeletons remain -- a ritual they haven't given up -- even as the COVID-19 pandemic upends burial practices worldwide. AFP/Sonny Tumbelaka

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    This picture taken on February 20, 2020 shows locals visiting a cemetery where Bali's Trunyanese people hold open-air burials - before restrictions were implemented due to the COVID-19 coronavirus - near the village of Trunyan in Bangli Regency, near Lake Batur on Bali island. - For centuries Bali's Trunyanese people have left their dead to decompose in the open air, the bodies placed in bamboo cages until only the skeletons remain -- a ritual they haven't given up -- even as the COVID-19 pandemic upends burial practices worldwide. AFP/Sonny Tumbelaka

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    This picture taken on February 20, 2020 shows skulls at a cemetery where Bali's Trunyanese people hold open-air burials - before restrictions were implemented due to the COVID-19 coronavirus - near the village of Trunyan in Bangli Regency, near Lake Batur on Bali island. - For centuries Bali's Trunyanese people have left their dead to decompose in the open air, the bodies placed in bamboo cages until only the skeletons remain -- a ritual they haven't given up -- even as the COVID-19 pandemic upends burial practices worldwide. AFP/Sonny Tumbelaka

AFP/ Agnes Anya

For centuries Bali's Trunyanese people have left their dead to decompose in the open, the bodies placed in bamboo cages until only the skeletons remain.

It is a ritual they haven't given up -- even as the COVID-19 pandemic upends burial practices worldwide with religious leaders in protective gear, cemetery workers in hazmat suits, and mourners banned or unable to comfort each other because of social-distancing rules.

Across Indonesia funeral workers are now required to wear protective equipment and bodies are laid to rest quickly, all in a bid to prevent the spread of the deadly respiratory disease.

But in Bali local officials claim the novel coronavirus, which has infected at least eight million and killed more than 430,000 globally, has yet to reach the remote north east where the Trunyan live.

https://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2020/06/16/balis-open-air-burials-endure-despite-covid-19-crisis.html

It is a short boat ride to their open-air cemetery from tiny Trunyan village, overlooked by volcano Mount Batur and a sprawling Hindu temple carved out of volcanic rock.

There are 11 cages for the corpses -- placed close to a fragrant banyan tree that hides the putrid smell of death, locals say.

In one cage, a recently deceased woman could almost have been mistaken for someone sleeping, but her waxy greying complexion revealed the truth.

Nearby, a flesh-less foot poked out of clothing left on the bodies, while a skeletal jaw lay agape in another cage.