As festive as a Balinese cremation ceremony is, there’s a sacred process at its core. There are three main phases to the cremation ceremony. The first is the Purification, which is dedicated to washing the body and decorating it with various objects of significance, like mirrors on the eyelids, flowers in the nostrils, wax in the ears, a ruby in the mouth and iron on the arms. The high priest will sprinkle holy water on the corpse. The second day is the Obeisance, when friends and family view their prepared loved one. The third day is the final Annihilation. If the deceased is a king, a Naga or dragon may be carried in a procession. The Naga is a symbol of life. Two high priests will shoot arrows at it, which are intended to release the deceased's soul from the world. The procession to the cemetery will then start.
From my own experience witnessing a dozen cremation ceremonies (tourists are welcome, but show up dressed appropriately with a sash around your waist or, better yet, wear a sarong), it is clear the priest (dressed in pristine white) – more than the family – is the caretaker of this process. The family fades to the background as the priest initiates this first step toward reincarnation. This particular cremation ceremony was in the Ubud region in central Bali. Ask your hotel staff what upcoming ceremonies may be occurring near your hotel in the next few days as they are usually aware of the local celebrations.