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by on Thursday, 27 April 20063 Comments | 3,223 views

Recently I took a trip to Trunyan, which is nestled on the eastern bank of Lake Batur at the foot of Mount Abang. Trunyan is home to the descendants of the original inhabitants of Bali who are known as the ‘Bali Aga’. This community of people, who have certain animistic beliefs, populated the island long before invasion of the Javanese aristocracy from the Majapahit kingdom during the 14th Century.



Trunyan is accessible only by boat and I made my mid-morning crossing from the village of Toya Bungkah, which was only a 20-minute journey. The cool waters of Lake Batur were calm on the way over, but the return trip was slightly choppy due to the strong afternoon winds.


The main temple of Trunyan, Pura Pancering Jagat, is known locally as the ‘temple of the navel of the world’ and stands by an ancient banyan tree that is said to be over 1000 years old. The name of this temple is derived from the megalithic statue known as Arca Da Tonta or Ratu Gede Pusering Jagat. A major temple ceremony (odalan) takes place here annually around the full moon of October in accordance to the Balinese lunar calendar. A unique dance called the Barong Brutuk is performed on this occasion to commemorate the legendary wedding anniversary between Ratu Sakti Pancering Jagat and the patron guardian of the village Ratu Ayu Dalem Pingit.

Beyond Trunyan is another separate place known as Kuban that is also only accessible by boat as there is no pathway joining the two. Here I discovered a Pura Dalem (temple of the dead) and an adjacent cemetery that lies beneath a tree known as Taru Menyan. The people of Trunyan do not practice cremation or even bury their dead. Instead they lay a deceased body wrapped in white cloth with the head clearly visible in a bamboo cage to naturally decompose.




Strangely enough there is no stench surrounding this unusual cemetery area. According to my guide, Made Kayun, this is due to the presence of the Taru Menyan tree with roots buried deep beneath the rotting bodies that mysteriously eliminate any trace of odour. “This cemetery only ever accommodates a maximum of 11 decomposing bodies at a time, never more than that,” Made explains. He went on to say that not every dead body is placed at this cemetery, especially if the death is caused by suicide or some other wrong doing.






However, if a local death occurs space is made in the cemetery by moving the most decomposed body and placing the bones on a stone platform. It is here that one will see a most macabre collection of skulls and bones, evoking imagery of the ‘killing fields’ in Cambodia.




Made Kayun also discussed the fact that the volume of water from Lake Batur varies significantly from time to time. On this particular trip the jetty was standing extremely high from its normal water line. But perhaps this had something to do with the lake water being used as a main source to irrigate so many local rice fields.

View Trunyan Village in a larger map

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