Ubud will hold a mass cremation for nearly a hundred people on Saturday, 16 July 2016. For weeks, the villagers of Ubud’s four core neighborhoods, or banjar, have been busy with preparations — making offerings and creating fantastical animal statues that will be the funeral biers. They have built a temporary ritual ‘village’ next to the graveyard where many tender rites will precede and follow the burning itself.
For Hindu Balinese, cremation rites, called ngaben in Bali, are perhaps the most important of all religious observances, the ultimate obligation of an individual to his parents and family members.. The aim of ngaben is to return the body and soul of the deceased to its origins — the body to the five elements, and the soul to Universal Consciousness.
The rituals for achieving this are so complicated that the corpses of the newly deceased are usually burned or buried until the ngaben rites can be carried out by the community. Generally, only priests and people of very high rank are directly given a full cremation.
On Wednesday 13 July, people from the four banjar of Ubud Kaja, Ubud Tengah, Ubud Kelod, and Sambahan went go to the graveyard to ‘awaken’ (wewangun) the dead. This entails offerings, mantra, and the opening of the graves. The remains of the dead are burned, and the ashes are attached to an effigy of the deceased.
This will now be the object of many further rites and ultimately of the ngaben itself, when it is burned in its animal bier. Afterwards, the ashes will be set adrift in the sea.
The Balinese treat ngaben as a public affair and welcome the presence of visitors, especially if they dress respectfully in a sarong and waist sash. Be forewarned, however, of tremendous traffic jams around mid-day.