KUPASONLINE.COM — The Ngaben tradition is a traditional ceremony of burning the bodies of Hindus, especially in Bali. The Ngaben ceremony is also known as Pitra Yadyna, Pelebon, or cremation ceremony.
The Ngaben tradition aims to release the souls of people who have died so they can enter the upper realm where they can wait to be reborn or reincarnated.
The Balinese indigenous people believe that the cremation tradition can also purify the spirits of family members who have passed away to their final resting place.
The Ngaben tradition is a sacred and lively ceremony, not only for the people of Bali, but also for tourists. According to the Tempo Analysis Team in the book “Knowing Ngaben Deeper: The Tradition of Burning Bodies in Bali”, Ngaben comes from the word ‘beya’ which means provisions. There are also those who say Ngaben comes from the word ‘ngabu’, which means to turn to ashes.
The Concept and Process of the Ngaben Tradition
According to the beliefs of Hindus in Bali, humans consist of a gross body, a subtle body, and karma. The gross human body is formed from 5 elements called the Panca Maha Bhuta, namely earth (solid), apah (liquid), teja (hot substance), bayu (wind), and akasa (vacuum).
These five elements unite to form the human body and are driven by the atma (spirit). When a human dies, it is only the gross body that dies, but not the atma.
For the Balinese people, Ngaben is a very important event, because by carrying on this tradition, families can free the spirits of people who have died from earthly bonds to go to heaven and wait for reincarnation.
By burning the corpse or symbolically then washing the ashes into the river or sea has the meaning of releasing the Atma (spirit) from worldly shackles so that it can easily unite with God (Mokshatam Atmanam).
Burning the corpse is also a series of Ngaben traditions to return all the elements of the Panca Maha Bhuta (the 5 elements that make up the gross human body) to their respective origins so as not to hinder Atma’s journey to Sunia Loka.
For the family, this Ngaben tradition is a symbol that the family has been sincere and has given up the person concerned. If Ngaben is delayed too long, the spirit will wander and become bhuta cuwil. Likewise if someone who dies is buried in the ground without proper ceremony.
This is because the spirits have not let go of their attachment to the human realm. So, it is necessary to hold the Ngaben Bhuta Cuwil ceremony.