“NGABEN”: Unique Cremation Ceremony in Bali

Sri Sahara By Sri Sahara, 28th Oct 2014 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Travel>Asia>Indonesia>Lombok & The Gili Islands

NGABEN or cremation ceremony in Bali has unique meaning in etymology view, belief view and process as well. Read this page to know more.

Etymological Meaning

NGABEN according to the etymological meaning come from the word "fire" or "api" ( in Indonesian ) which gets prefix "nga" and suffix "an" becomes "ngapian". But, "ngapian" is encoded into "ngapen" which gradually shift into a word "NGABEN".

NGABEN or cremation ceremony always involves two fires. First, it is a concrete fire (fire actually). Second, it is an abstract fire (fire from Mantra Puja pastor who lead the ceremony). Another version says that NGABEN or cremation comes from the word “Beya” that means stock, so cremation ceremony also mean gives stock to the ancestor for the journey up into the paradise or Sunia Loka.

Belief Meaning

NGABEN is a cremation ceremony performed by Hindus in Bali which is classified as Yadnya Pitra ceremony or a purification ceremony of soul as a Balinese Hindu sacred obligation to their ancestors.

As written in yadnya Pitra, the human body consists of rough body, subtle body and karma. Human gross body is formed of five elements called Panca Maha Bhuta ie motherland (solid), apah (liquid), cassia (hot substance) wind (wind) and akasa (vacuum). All five of these elements are together to form the human physical and mobilized by the atma (soul). After die, the five elements of body was restored to Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva. So, cremation is the process of sanctification of soul as it leaves the gross body.

Stages of The Ceremony

Cremation is not done immediately. For those who have high caste, it is reasonable to perform this ritual within 3 days after one of them die. But, for those who have lower caste, the corpse was buried first and then performed a ritual cremation together with other corpse in one village to suppress the high cost of the process of the ceremony.

Many stages are performed in cremation, starting from bathing of the corpse, releasing the soul or "ngajum", burning and immerse ashes of the corpse into the sea or "nyekah".

Bathing of the corpse. The corpse is bathed by the Brahmins or the person who is considered the oldest in the community. Furthermore, the corpse dressed in complete traditional Balinese dress, like a living person.

Next is releasing the soul or "ngajum", the procession of releasing the soul by creating some symbols using cloth pictorial elements of purification of the soul. At this time the whole family will pay their respects and give prayer that the soul obtaining a good place beside the god.

Burning ceremony. The bodies were placed in "Bade" where the body will be carried to the cemetery followed by the entire family and community. Arriving at the cemetery, cremation ceremony performed by putting bodies in the crematorium called "pemalungan" is a bull or a cow-shaped sculpture made of stacks of banana tree trunk. The ceremony was preceded by other ceremonies and prayers spell of master of ceremonies. Then "pemalungan" burned to ashes.

The last stage is immersing ashes of the corpse into the sea or "nyekah". Ash of the corpse then thrown into sea or river is considered sacred by family. After this stage the cremation process is considered complete.


Bali, Cremation Ceremony, Ngaben, Unique

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author avatar Sri Sahara
I am a mother with two children who loves write some articles on vacation, health and beauty topics in my spare time.

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