The royal cremation of the Ubud royal family head Tjokorda Gde Agung Suyasa, who died in March after a long illness, and lesser royal Tjokorda Gde Raka who also died in March, which is held today, is surely one of the biggest royal cremation ceremonies in the history of Bali. Apart from the gigantic cremation towers, the prima ballerina of this royal cremation is none other then the Naga Banda, a seven-metre long ‘dragon’, made of tons of bamboo and wood, decorated with brilliant accessories.
To shed a better light on Naga Banda, here is a short story on the origin of Naga banda and why it is used in a royal cremation.
King Waturenggong, the king of Bali, held a grand ceremony in the capital city of his kingdom, Gelgel. One of the requirements of the ceremony is that a high priest of Buda sect has to officiate the ceremony along with the high priest of Siwa sect; so Danghyang Astapaka, a high priest of Buda sect which also brother of royal priest Danghyang Nirartha was summoned form East Java to officiate the ceremony.
The people and the king of Gelgel had a great doubt on the magical power of Danghyang Astapaka, so the high priest was put into a test. The people of Gelgel made a well and put a goose into it, and then they cover the well. When Danghyang Astapaka arrived in Gelgel, he was brought near the whale and was asked what animal they had hidden. Danghyang Astapaka proclaimed it was a dragon. The people and King Waturenggong laughed at him, but when the people of Gelgel opened the well to reveal the high priest,s error, they was astounded to indeed uncover a dragon.
The king and the people of Gelgel finally acknowled the magical power of Danghyang Astapaka. King Waturenggong then asked the high priest on the power of the newly covered dragon. The high priest then asked the king to ride the dragon with him and made a trip to heaven. Danghyang Astapaka and King Waturenggong rode the dragon to the heaven. And when they are back to the earth the King built a new town based on the heavenly town he had seen when visiting the heaven. This new town was named Suwecapura (town of blessing).
From that time, when there is a king pass away, a Naga banda will be built as a vehicle for the spirit of the deceased king to go to the heaven. It is hoped that with the help of the Naga banda, the spirit of the King will reach the heaven as soon as possible.