Jarai Cemetary

Well worth a look

No pic at the moment -- Sorry!

What we say: 4 stars

There are several Jarai cemeteries in the area -- the one we visited was 16km from town, after crossing the Dakbla River bridge. The Jarai have an interesting and very practical way of undertaking ancestor worship. The spirits of the recently deceased should be honored with a feast day and, perhaps, the sacrifice of a bull, but the resources to really pull this off aren't always on hand at the time of death. So, they promise the departed a sacrifice and a party at some later date -- perhaps a year, or five years, or ten years in the future, depending on how long they think it'll take to get to pull everything together.

The dead are buried in rough wooden huts -- though more recent version may be of concrete -- which are adorned with statues carved from single logs that attempt to represent what the occupant saw in life -- soldiers are a visible theme -- French, American, north and south Vietnamese, along with peasant women, and figures cowering in postures of grief.

Up until the festival, food is brought regularly to the grave to keep the spirit from getting restless. But once the contract is fulfilled and the celebration is complete, it is believed that the soul departs and the gravesite belongs to another world. The skull of the sacrificed animal is mounted on a pole in front of the tomb, and it is then left to decay, untouched and untended.

To the living, the cemetery constitutes an ever-present reminder of the transitory nature of existence, and a reassurance that in death, their soul will be cared for and their spirit honored. These cemeteries are very hard to find on your own, and the experience is greatly enhanced by hiring a good guide and asking lots of questions.

Travellers to Cambodia can see similar cemetaries near Ban Lung in Rattanakiri province.

Last updated: 28th February, 2007

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