Many people come to Bali hoping to see an Ubud cremation ceremony. As Ubud is still relatively rural and is often referred to as being the cultural center of Bali, the cremation ceremonies tend to be quite extravagant. So what are these ceremonies all about?
One most important parts of Balinese culture is the cremation ceremony. This ritual act offers the last circle of life respect to the departed. The intention is to commit the dead to the spirit world and for the repose of their souls. In Balinese culture, you will often hear the word Ngaben, Pretiwaan and Plebon; do not be confused, these words refer to cremation but for different people involved.
The word Ngaben refers to cremation rite for ordinary people; the commoners. Cremation ceremonies for royalty are described with the word Plebon while priests take the description Pretiwaan. Cremation ceremonies have three other types as well. There is the modest cremation known in local Balinese culture as Nista. You will also hear of Madya which is known as the middle-level cremation. The final level of cremation is Utama also known as Prime cremation.
Times for Cremation ceremonies
The various levels of cremation are done according to Bali’s auspicious calendar. The bigger the cremation ceremony, the more the time required to prepare for it. The longer it takes to prepare for the ceremony, the more money is needed. However, it is typical of most Balinese to wait until a later date, sometimes a few years before doing the cremation. This means that the body is buried for years before being burnt in the cremation. The exception to this ritual of delaying cremation is when a notable personality such as a priest passes away. In this case the cremation ceremony will take place as soon as possible. It will usually be that these prime cremation ceremonies take place soon after the death happened.
Collective Cremation Ceremonies
There are occasions (every three to five years) that the Ubud village council will organize mass cremation to give families with pending cremation rites to come together to hold cremation rituals. Participating in collective cremation ceremonies helps to reduce expected cremation expenses and make it affordable for the people to send forth their deceased relations. The locals refer to joint cremation as Atiwa-tiwa Kinembulan, Ngaben Ngerit or Ngaben Masal.
It is obligatory for the surviving son of the deceased in a family to make proper preparations and do proper cremation for their departed parents. For the deceased with no children or a spouse, it is the responsibility of their close relations to do a proper cremation rite for their departed family.
Bali cremation ceremonies are tourist delights as they provide a spectacular opportunity to witness Balinese culture firsthand. You will be greeted with Balinese hospitality as you join them in sending forth their departed relations. Cremation ceremonies come up at different times of the year. If you would like to participate, find out when the next ceremonies are and make preparations to attend.
The eBikes Bali Ubud rice terrace tour has had the opportunity to see quite a few cremation ceremonies along our route. We always stop and let our guests enjoy this one of a kind experience. And even if there is no cremation going on you should still come on our tour It’s definitely the best way to see Bali!