Trunyan Village: Bali’s Skull Island

The only place in Bali where the dead are not buried. Balinese generally bury or burn dead bodies in an expensive Ngaben ceremony, but in Trunyan Village, dead bodies were just laid on the shallow recess on the ground and left to decay in the open air. They were arranged side by side , only covered with clothes in bamboo cages, called Ancak Sajii, to protect the bodies from hungry wild animals.


Not far from the grave site, skulls were arranged in a line near a big tree, called the Taru Menyan tree, which, as the locals claimed, is the only specimen of its kind in the entire world,  emits a very pleasant smell. So, legend has it that about 1,300 years ago, the king at the time was concerned that if other people started smelling how good the tree smelled, they would try to steal the land or the tree from him. His solution to this fear was to actually bury the dead above the ground, so that the bad odors from the decomposing flesh would counteract the aroma of the Taru Menyan tree. This was pretty much his way of preventing any challengers from coming in and trying to take his tree. But, in actuality, the smell produced by the tree is said to remove the putrid smell of decaying corpses. Well, a legend is a legend, so we’ll go with that. The oldest remains went back to 1,300 years ago when this peculiar funeral rite first started and villagers still practice the tradition to this day.


Like all cemeteries, this one also is also divided in different sections. It is said that the corpses of people who died of natural cause, with no wound on the bodies and are married, to be laid on one section of the site. The ones who died of natural cause, but are not married, would be laid on another part of the cemetery. And the last section is for the ones who died of unnatural causes, such as murder or suicide. This is some dark stuff, if you ask me.


This village is claimed to be the oldest village in Bali, having only received electricity in 2012, and also one of the least touristy places you can find in Bali. Probably, not everybody’s cup of tea, but if you like exploring hidden gems like this, you should definitely check it out and learn about the unique history.



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