Ngaben Bali

Ngaben, Death the Balinese way …

Royal cremation ceremony of Dr Anak Agung Made Djelantik of Karangasem in 2008

The island of Bali is not only home to the gods but also where their dead are ritually cremated (ngaben) For the Balinese the Atma or soul can only be fully released from its earthly life through a purification ceremony without which it may never know peace or continue its journey to its next life. Cremating the dead only came to the island after the spread of the Hindu Javanese kingdom of Majapahit. These non Hindu traditions are still practiced by the indigenous Balinese known as Bali Aga inhabitants of villages of Trunyan and Tenganan. In Trunyan the dead are left to decay in a special burial ground reachable only by a small boat. Royal cremations are mostly spectacular with joyful and colourful processions. Here are some images I took of the royal cremations in Karangasem and Ubud. I was invited for the two days funerary ceremony of Dr Anak Agung Made Djelantik from the Royal House of Puri Karangasem.

Balinese Hindu priests officiating at the funerary ceremony of Dr Anak Agung Made Djelantik of Karangasem in 2008

I was also able to attend the spectacular royal cremation in Ubud and although it’s been awhile now it remained a memorable event. Colourful sarcophagus in the form of large decorative towers and the golden bull (lembu) carried by bearers make twisting turns at road junctions to finally arrived at the cremation grounds.

Royal cremation in Ubud in 2005

A few days later the ashes are thrown into the sea with the last rites for the dead … and so the soul is released from this world.

Ngaben royal cremation in Ubud in 2005

9 replies »

  1. This is beautiful and informative! I am only familiar with Midwestern funeral traditions and love to learn more about funeral traditions around the world. I was in a writing group once with a woman from India and she wrote the most beautiful piece about her father’s funeral pyre.

    • Thank you for the nice comments. Although it follows Hindu concepts the Balinese cremation with all its symbolism and rituals is unique in the world :-)

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