A favorite stop on our wellness and yoga retreats and tours is The Sacred Monkey Forest in Ubud, Bali.
We have posted a great deal about the Monkey Forest, its history, religious significance, the monkeys themselves and more. I have posted the links for you below.
On a recent visit, I was struck by the number and frequency of monkeys interacting with the gravestones of their dearly departed. That’s right, the Monkey Forest has a cemetery for the deceased monkeys, it has two, in fact.
Bali Monkey Legends
There are many legends surrounding the long tailed macaques in this forest, and others like it throughout Bali, involving the mystery of disappearing Bali monkey corpses. The workers in the forest develop a relationship with the monkeys and know when they are ill. Often times, monkeys cannot be located for long periods of time. It is understood that monkeys pass away, but the numbers of dead monkeys actually recovered from the forest, is far less than the attrition rates. What happens to these monkeys?
I have spent a good deal of time in Ubud’s Monkey Forest, as well as several others in Bali, like the ones in Sangeh and Uluwatu. In discussions with the caretakers, I have heard many explanations ranging from the other monkeys will bury their dead on their own deep in the jungle, to the bodies will taken by the spirits and somehow disappear. The tree spirits in the forest are said to have particularly strong powers, but that is for another blog post.
What I have seen, and been able to document, is the seemingly inordinate amount of time some of the population will spend contemplating the gravesites of their friends and relatives. The human workers tell me that the monkeys know which monkeys are represented by which headstones and will bring them offerings of fruit and flowers, sit on or near the headstone for long periods of time looking at the words carved into the stone, and eat their meals with their deceased brethren.
I cannot decisively say one way or the other, but witnessing this unusual act over the years, has me thinking there is something more to this than we would normally give credit for. It has been well documented that other animals like elephants and dogs not only mourn the dead, but keep vigil over them. They sometimes even extend this sympathy and grief to other species. So why not? What do you think? We would love to hear your comments below.
For more on the monkeys, The Monkey Forest, the history, legend and more, click these links…