In the traditional Balinese village of Trunyan, the dead are not buried. They are not cremated or burned on a pyre or, as in the case of the Zoroastrians, hoisted up a hill to be torn apart by vultures. They are simply laid on the ground and left to rot.
Trunyan Cemetery, accessible only by boat across Lake Batur, contains 11 bamboo cages built in the shape of triangular prisms. When a member of the village dies, their body—wrapped in white cloth with the head exposed — is placed in one of these cages. When the cages are full, the body that has been there the longest is removed to make room for the next inhabitant. The remains of the long-time resident are placed on a pile along with any other corpses that have been evicted by newcomers until all the flesh, fat, and muscle has decomposed.
When the bones are all that remain of a deceased villager, the skull is added to the growing row beneath a large Taru Menyan tree. This tree is not just decorative—the pleasant, incense-like fragrance wafting from its leaves helps neutralize the odor of the decomposing corpses.
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