Trunyan. Mysterious village of the dead in Bali
This place has long been shrouded in secrets and legends. Terrifying rumors circulated about the village and its people, to the point that it was considered dangerous for tourists to visit. Of course, all of this is just fiction! Trunyan is becoming more and more famous, with foreigners traveling there, and the small Balinese community of Bali Aga welcoming them with interest.
Bali Aga is an ancient people inhabiting the local lands, who originally lived on Bali long before the island became part of Indonesia. They were the first inhabitants of the island and to this day are different from other nationalities, such as Balinese or Javanese.
Bali Aga translates as "people from the mountains," but the residents themselves do not like this name because it implies that they are foolish. They prefer to call themselves Bali Mula, which essentially means the same thing but does not sound offensive. Bali Aga people live among the mountains in the most remote areas of Bali. Hence the name.
For many centuries, this people has managed to avoid contact with other Indonesians and Europeans, which is why they can confidently be called the purest and most indigenous Balinese. They have also managed to preserve their culture and traditions. They use their own dialect in their language, which is more than a thousand years old, and they practice the ancient religion of animism, which involves the worship of objects and forces of nature.
Why is Trunyan called the village of the dead?
In fact, the village became famous because of the local cemetery, which is located deep in the forest. Unlike in most other places in Bali, cremation is not practiced at the cemetery. Instead, the bodies of the deceased are placed under a dome made of bamboo and palm branches and left out in the open air, where they undergo a natural decomposition process. It is surprising that there is no specific odor at the cemetery. According to beliefs, an ancient tree called Menyan, under which the deceased are laid, eliminates the smell. Local residents consider the tree magical.
But not everyone can be buried at this cemetery, but only married men and women who died a natural death. Children, young people who have not yet married, and people who died from accidents, infections, etc. are buried in two other cemeteries in the ground.
How is the burial carried out?
The traditional ritual involves washing the body of the deceased, wrapping it in cloth, leaving only the head outside, and adding household items and utensils. Men transport the body to the sacred tree on a boat, while women are not allowed to the burial site. To protect the dead from wild animals, their bodies are placed in woven bamboo cages.
Usually, on the cemetery, you can see 11 shacks, and when they all fill up, the bones and skulls from the first one are taken out and placed on the stone steps.
In order to bury a relative on this cemetery, the family needs to gather money and wait for their turn for the ceremony. For this reason, it is often not possible to bury the body immediately, and it may lie at home for several weeks. To prevent any odor, it is treated with formalin.
Historians consider this custom to be very ancient, existing long before the first Hindus appeared on Bali. The locals themselves claim that they do not burn bodies to avoid angering the volcano, which is located right across Lake Batur.
The cemetery itself is located half a kilometer from the village of Trunyan and is surrounded on three sides by impassable jungles and high hills, so it can only be reached by boat. You may think that the cemetery looks abandoned: clothes, household items, and skulls, which have been scattered by monkeys, are everywhere. The Balinese people do not take care of their cemetery and do not clean it up.
Despite the fact that there is a rather gloomy atmosphere on the cemetery, tourists note that there is a special sense of calm and unity with the world in this place.
The Trunyan village
The village of Trunyan is located in Kintamani on the eastern shore of Lake Batur, opposite the volcano of the same name. Therefore, you can visit the village on the way back after climbing the volcano. The settlement also has some features that distinguish it from others. It is the last settlement on the road and therefore isolated. Trunyan is surrounded by a fence, and its gates are closed at night, and all residents must return home before sunset.
The village is very small, consisting of a waterfront and several narrow streets. It is evident that the people here live very poorly. You may notice that the way of life, architecture, and the people themselves in Trunyan differ from the rest of Bali.
There were rumors that the Bali Aga people, who are accustomed to living in isolation, are not very hospitable, but this is not true. They are always happy to show their unusual cemetery to anyone interested, however, sometimes tourists start touching the skulls and taking pictures with them, which they don't like. In addition, they really dislike when outsiders try to sneak into the cemetery with the help of unauthorized guides.
Our company offers individual tours that include hiking up Mount Batur and visiting the village of Trunyan. Tours are conducted daily for groups of two or more people. You can find a description of the program here.
Do you want to experience mystical Bali and get acquainted with the ancient indigenous people? Then come with us!