Ngaben, Escorting the Dead

One of the most unique yet sacred ceremony in Bali would be the Ngaben ceremony. This ceremony can be so colossal or can be downright ordinary depending on the social status of the dead person. A descendant of royalty’s Ngaben ceremony, for example, will be so large, it becomes a temporary tourist attraction involving lots and lots of people. This ceremony is based on local belief (Hinduism) that the body must be immediately destructed so it can return to nature faster, thus letting the soul rise to heaven. It is the construction process of this ceremony which really takes the cheese. It takes months of planning and hard work to conduct a successful Ngaben ceremony. The Ngaben ceremony involves a high aptitude of craftsmanship, which you can see from the equipment used for this particular ceremony. Lots of complicated items crafted from mostly young coconut leaves, the majestic carriage of the dead which takes days to complete, and the spiritual aura makes this ceremony one of the most sacred ceremonies known to Balinese Hindus.

Since it’ll be too complicated (and I don’t understand) to write about the lengthy crafting process, I’ll write about the pinnacle of the ceremony, where a lot of fire and muscle are involved.
Before departing to the nearest graveyard (Balinese: setra), guests gather and walk around a certain stalk tied by a white string with several attachments. I personally don’t know why they do this, but according to a guest, it was some kind of farewell process to ensure that the spirit makes its way to heaven.

After that is done, the guests then line up in front of the carriage. The carriage itself is adorned with various decorations which correspond to the person’s place in society. The height of the carriage also increases according to the status of the person. The guests hold a white, long piece of fabric which must not be dropped. This represents followers, like in Ancient Bali, when the king was always escorted by his followers and guards. The more muscular have the heaviest job; carrying the carriage to the graveyard. It isn’t an easy task, but that was before roads were smooth like today and distances were not that far. They don’t only carry it normally, sometimes, at major intersections, they spin the carriage around wildly. It seems that this is done to ensure that the spirit can’t return home. Occasionally, the mourning family throws coins on the street, only to be picked up by bystanders and spectators. I don’t know why they do that.

When they arrive at the graveyard, the people take the body off the carriage and into a casket which has been previously prepared. A priest then sprinkles holy water onto the body to purify it. Then, a lot is done to the body. I couldn’t tell at that time because it was pretty crowded. After the purification process, the body and the carriage are set on fire. This marks the destruction of the worldly vessel and it is returned to the Earth. After this is over, the ashes are collected and then released at sea or a lake.

In more modern practices, when Balinese have little time to spare, the dead can be easily cremated. Cremation services are becoming quite popular these days because it is more efficient and requires less work. Special packages are offered at a reasonable price without reducing the real meaning of Ngaben itself.
So, that’s all about Ngaben. Thanks for reading!

PS: The photographs are copyright-protected; they’re mine. Please inform me first if you want to use them anywhere else. Thanks for your kind attention.

About darksiderzukasa

I am a drifter. I do not belong to anyone. I am a free spirit. My words are not tied to any rules.

Posted on Mei 28, 2011, in Culture, English and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Tinggalkan komentar.

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