Bali’s cremation ceremonies must be some of the most magnificent in the world. For, to the Balinese, it is only through the cremation of the body that the soul can be released from this temporary vessel to reach the afterlife. And, in order to do so, the correct rites and rituals must be followed, especially when it concerns those of royal lineage.  For, at death, the body must be consumed by fire for the soul to return to its five constituent elements known as the panca maha bhita (earth, wind, fire, water and ether)  in order to speed it  to the afterlife.

 It is only through following the proper rites and rituals, therefore, that the soul can be finally freed from the body to be reborn or ultimately reach moksa, the ethereal existence in the higher realms of the upperworld.

Cremations in Bali are lavish and therefore costly. The higher the rank, the more elaborate the preparations and decorations required. For this reason, the deceased will have been buried for some time before the family or the community can gather sufficient funds.  It is common custom, therefore, for simple people to wait for the cremation of a person of royal standing or religious leader and join in the rituals (called ngiring) for the cremation of their own relatives, which is allowed. 

A few days before the day of the cremation the wandering soul of the buried deceased is recalled to rejoin the body, usually represented by an effigy , brought to the house  to be repeatedly bathed, groomed and attended to with refreshments served by relatives.

On the eve of the cremation, priests present offerings to the supernatural forces that are asked to open the path for the soul , while relatives pray for the release of the soul to the upperworld. 

The following day, the body is taken to the open ground where the cremation takes place, which is usually after the sun has passed its zenith.  When all is consumed by fire, relatives gather the ashes and bones of the deceased , and a further effigy of the dead person is constructed to be taken in procession to the sea or river, where it is cast into the water,  into the protection of the ocean.

Following this, in the coming months or years after the cremation, when sufficient funds have been gathered, more ceremonies take place to further ensure the complete separation of the sould of its worldly attachments, in order to allow the soul to reach the upperworld.  In the final ceremony, called the nyagara-gunung ceremony, the family expresses thanks to the gods of the oceans and the mountain temples, and the deified soul is enshrined in the temple, awaiting its next reincarnation or release from the cycle of rebirth. 

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