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Taman, Bali, Indonesia
I am just a 38 years old fellow from a small village named Taman, on the island of Bali. There is nothing that is too special about me. I am not a person with degree but I always love to have opportunity to learn new things in my life. I am working just as a driver and tour guide for Bali and I have been happy doing it for more than 16 years now and it might be the only things that I can do for the rest of my life.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Balinese Cremation Ceremony

For the Balinese Hindu followers, there are ceremonies for every stage of life but often the last ceremony or cremation is the biggest and the most elaborate. Ngaben derives from the word “Abu” means ashes, is a cremation ceremony that is conducted by the Balinese Hindu followers. It is often called Pitra Yadnya by the local people of Bali. It is one of the Five Ritual or Panca Yadnya which are carried out by the Balinese Hindu. Pitra Yadnya comes from the word “Pitra” and “Yadnya”. Pitra means souls or ancestor and Yadnya means sincere devotions or sacrificial, so Pitra Yadnya briefly means a sincere devotion or ceremony that is conducted for the body and soul of the dead. A cremation or Ngaben is conducted to return the five elements that are used to create the human body to its origin.

In the Hindu Balinese cosmology, the body of man is a microcosm of the universe which is made up of the same five elements, known as Panca Maha Bhuta. They are air, water, earth, fire and space. After the body’s death, the immortal soul, according to our principal of reincarnation, will find a home in another form, but before it might go through a kind of hell before being able to gain Moksha (a state of perfection in which the soul is liberated forever from any temporal life or ascend to a state of ultimate oneness with God). It depends on the deed of the person itself during his temporary life in this universe. The better that we do in our life the faster that the soul would gain the union to the God. The soul of a dead person can not immediately leaves the body, only after the body’s five elements have been returned to the macrocosm by cremation can the soul completely detach itself from the body.

Cremation is an occasion of a celebration for the Balinese as represent the release of their ancestor’s spirit and the accomplishment of the family’s duty. As what Miguel Covarrubias observed in his book, the Island of Bali: "Strange as it seems, it is in their cremation ceremonies that the Balinese have their greatest fun." For the Balinese, the death shouldn’t be cried as the tears can be an obstacle for the soul to find his way to the new world. We are so happy and excited when a new baby born, why should we cry out when someone has to go? We all well understand the natural rule of life, born, live and die. It is a cycle of life.

A Balinese cremation ceremony can be truly an amazing, spectacular, colorful, noisy and exciting event. In fact, it often takes so long to organize a cremation that could be years after a person have passed away. During that time the body is temporarily buried in the local cemetery ground. But of course it is not always the case if a person is a priest or a royal family. They normally do not burry the dead, they would keep the body at home until a good day to conduct the cremation comes. It would be given by their high priest. For the un-wealthy family, they burry the body straight away after the person died and wait until an auspicious day would be chosen for the cremation. They would take the opportunity of joining in at a larger cremation at the same time. It allows them to share the cost of the ceremony itself. It is often that we can see 50 to hundred families conducting a cremation at the same time which surely offer us a very special event that none in the village would missed out. On some other cases, the poorer villagers may join in the elaborate ceremonies of a wealthier neighbor when a proper ceremony, such as the royal cremation or a high priest is undertaken. Like the one that was taking place in Mengwi district of Badung Regency of Bali in December 2001, for the 13th generations of the kings, Ida Cokorda Mengwi.he was cremated and followed by 830 other Balinese that came from 37 villages in the district of Mengwi. It might have been the biggest in number over centuries. It was truly a spectacular ceremony where thousands of people have flocked to Puri Agung Palace in Mengwi, Bali to witness one of the island's biggest cremations of recent years.

A modest cremation ceremony could cost hundred thousands of dollars and takes weeks and months of preparation for the offerings and other related ceremonial appliances. The days between death and ceremony are spent in intense preparation of many details and rituals leading up to the event and without the voluntary cooperation of the community, friends and family members, the necessary preparations would be impossible. With the sense of togetherness and working hand in hand, all the necessary offerings and appliances will be done on time for the event. In the Balinese way of life, serving for the community’s activities is the priority and the most important thing in our lives.

A part from being simple and elaborate of the cremation itself, the most important part in conducting a ceremony is that how sincerely we conduct the rites without any burden. It is the essence of the ceremony itself that is the priority.

To see and experience a Balinese cremation ceremony is both a rare opportunity and a soul-searching experience. Understanding the centuries old rituals and beliefs that make the custom a tradition among the Balinese Dharma Hindu helps bring perspective to an event, which could otherwise become lost in a smoky mist of confusion.


wilbi said...

Great idealistic idea, showing the World(WW) how Beautiful the hidden Bali is using the Internet facilities

Anonymous said...

nice post. I would love to follow you on twitter.