Ngaben, or Cremation Ceremony, is one of the most fascinating rituals for visitors to witness on Bali. This required Balinese Hindu funeral ritual is performed to send the deceased to the next life. With this unique procession the body of the deceased is placed as if sleeping and the family will continue to treat the deceased as sleeping.
The dead body is placed inside a Bade or Wadah (like a sarcophagus) resembling a buffalo (lembu) or in a temple like structure made of wood and decorated with coloured papers. The more elaborate the Bade and/or taller the temple structure the higher the caste of the deceased. This sarcophagus is then carried by village men in a funeral procession to the cremation. The procession never walks in a straight line but rather zigs and zags and dances in circles. It is believed that evil spirits can only walk or follow in straight lines and by dancing in circles the evil spirits are confused and not able to follow the deceased into the afterlife.
The climax of a Ngaben is the burning of the sarcophagus containing the body of the deceased. The fire is viewed as necessary to returning the five elements of body to the resources and thus enable reincarnation.
Whilst extremely important Ngaben is not always immediately performed. This is an expensive ritual. For members of the elite classes it is normal to perform the ritual individually for the deceased within three days. However given the expense an option for the lower social classes is bury the deceased first, then then hold the Ngaben with the village’s other dead in a mass cremation ceremony. This could be in many years after. However sharing the cost amongst many families is often the only way poorer families can afford this required ceremony.
If you happen to be on Bali and interested to witness a cremation ceremony, please contact us for arrangements.