Balinese Cremation

by M-Rebeiro

A Balinese cremation can be an amazing, spectacular, colorful, noisy and exciting event. Bodies are transferred to a cremation sarcophagus that is the shape of a bull for a Brahmana, a winged lion for a Satria and a sort of elephant-fish for a Sudra.

Since Hinduism in Bali is divergent from Indian Hindu, many practices lack the same guidelines and restrictions. One difference lies in the rules on cremation. Balinese Hindu are often buried in large mass graves after death so that they can all be burned together on specific days on the Balinese-Javanese calendar system. Certain members of the court or nobles can be interred for years to await the cremation of their prince. Brahmins, members of the highest caste in Hindu culture, are always to be cremated immediately without wait.

The ceremony is known as “Ngaben” and is very expensive. As such, an additional reason to delay cremation is to save on costs by doing mass cremations. The third use of the burial is to allow for decomposition of the corpse to rid the body of fluids, hastening cremation.

The Balinese people put great care and love into the ritual, making the cremation sites works of art adorned with flowers and decorated often by the whole village. It is followed by a feast to honor and remember the dead.

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