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Ngaben (Cremation Ceremony)

NgabenNgaben or the Cremation Ceremony is the ritual performed to send the dead through the transition to his next life. The complex and time, energy and fund consuming ritual has come to the view of society as the bigger burden of their life. This type of exaggerated ritual must have started from royal palace that much possible started from 13th century, then followed by the common people. It is probable also that the priest or pandita have given the hope to the people that by doing such as exaggerated ritual a promise of Sorga or good life after death. Other reason it would have been the chaos of castes where each group claimed or traced their progenitors to high person of the past by showing that they performed the great ritual. This is a fact when a certain family can only use tower with only one roof, 3 roofs, or even 11 roofs. This is to show the social status of the dead and his family as the high class descendants.

If we trace back the very root of this ritual has actually already existed among the ethnics of the archipelago. Dayak people in Kalimantan has the tradition of Tiwah, in Toraja has the tradition of hanging graves, Sumba has the megalithic burials and others. During the prehistory, the treatment of the dead is shown by the complex burial stone coffins such as sarcophagus and clay jars. All of these ancient burials followed by the indication of ritual, which might at the simple form. And from this tradition originally practiced by the people then got the influence of Hindu and Buddhist. The concept of original burial and dead person treatment has some similarities with the new comers, with the degree of similarity the two concepts were easily mixed up and become a tradition with more elements involved in the completion of the ritual. The old concept of ancestor worship now added with concept of gods, where human soul can reach the state of divinity by treating the dead with certain ceremony. In Bali some of villages still practice this tradition such as Tenganan, Trunyan, Pedawa, Sidatapa, Tigawasa and Sembiran, called the Bali Age villages, they burry or place the dead at the cemetery but do not introduce the ritual of ngaben. It was only the year of 2000 that Trunyan village and Pedawa villages imitated the lowland villages to conduct the ritual of ngaben in a light different procedure and materials used. It was lack of knowledge of Hindu Assembly that allowed them to change their traditional which will affect all their life to perform an exaggerated rituals, and will causing also the set back of their society, unless economically they can keep pace with the growing need of the modern life.Ngaben

The concept of unity between human soul and the god lately added with the doctrine that the unity can be intentionally made with ritual, not only those people who carried his life with good ethic of religion. Even this doctrine in the course of history become more higher compared to the real ethic itself. This new doctrine called " penyucian atman " laterally means soul purification. It is put forward that the purification ritual will returned the elements of the body into " Panca Maha Bhuta " or five elements of the universe. It is hard to understand why the doctrine of atheistic like Camkya philosophy of cosmology in India become incorporated in a theistic concept like Hindu in Bali. According to Camkhya, the universe is formed by 5 elements, the pertiwi ( earth ), the apah ( liquid ), the teja ( heat or light ), the bayu ( wind ). and the akasa ( universe medium ) The doctrine of ngaben translated this 4 elements as the body part of human being. Eloquently described that composed the body called " stula sarira" This stula sarira consist of " tri sarira " or 3 bodies, one is the body ( panca maha bhuta ), spirit, and soul. The spirit is translated as those soul which still not yet reach its divine state, and can still visit their family or stay some where on the world but by human being it can not be seen. This is the function of ngaben that purify this spirit to reach its highest state as atman ( soul ).

During the course of history this this ancestor worship incorporated into Hindu tradition called " manusa yadnya" or life circle rites, which was practiced in India thousand years ago with the name of " Samskara" and now enthusiastically practiced in Bali. Ngaben is the last order of the manusa yadnya, when a human being left the worldly life, called pitra yadnya, basically means the ritual to the ancestor. Pitra originated from Sanskrit " pitre". The worked father of Sanskrit is fatar which might correlated with pitre means ancestor. If we see current burial until ngaben there are steps of ritual that must be followed or at other areas have other tradition that is still showing the similar process, except older Balinese villages mentioned above. In most cases, when a person is died, the corpse is bathed and dressed in symbolic ways, given the holy water for purification then buried at the cemetery. Some banten ( offering ) to the goddess of the cemetery are made to request good way and place to the dead. It is believed that the goddess of cemetery, the Dewi Durga who reside at Prajapati temple is on control of the cemetery. After this burial ceremony, the family wait for another years to conduct the ceremony of ngaben and memukur together with other families who also have the member dead. This mass ceremony was expected to get cheaper cost and energy. But later this type of mass ngaben and memukur also become an expensive work, which has gone astray from their first objective.

With this situation some villages initiated a much more simplified ritual by taking at once when their family is dead making the ritual of ngaben and memukur at a time. This is also expected to save cost and time. The banten of ngaben and memukur are so complicated, and without clear reasons back ground, various symbols are also made from the small tower, music instruments, symbol of the ancestor, real tower, symbol of the dead, and dozens of symbols. All of these objects need banten for symbolically bring to life, purification, and put them dead again. At the village where direct cremating of the corpse is permitted, still symbol of the dead is made. At the highland areas where cremating the corpse is not permitted, they cremating the symbols. The symbol is given a complicated process again. It is brought to the cemetery, as if the symbol is united with the body of the dead with various type of banten, then brought to the ngaben pavilion to get daily banten until the departure again to the cemetery. On the day already fixed all these symbols again brought to the cemetery with tower then cremated at the cemetery and the ash were brought to the river with various bantens, while new symbols appear again to be put on the memukur pavilion.

Until the day that will be determined this symbols again cremated and the ash put in young coconut which later will be thrown to the sea. Indeed this process is followed again by a complex banten. Most of the ngaben during a trip to Gowa Laway to perform a ceremony of memukur with dozens of banten types, then visited Gowa Lawah, Besakih, Pura Dalem Puri, Goa, and to the house of the Brahmana ( Griya ) then back to the village. Again in the village a ceremony of enthroning like a god. This is not yet finish in total but still some ceremony with banten to symbolically cleaning the whole village from all superstitious dirts after the big ngaben and memukur rituals. An under developed villages in Bali can work for months to complete all this ceremonies and not rare after the ritual a family drained out of wealth, sickness, or even quarrelling with relatives. This view only for a general type of the ceremony, and variations can be found throughout the island.

Ngaben Ngaben