Friday, December 12, 2014

Ngaben : A cremation ceremony full of great phylosophy (Part I)

Bali, one of provinces in Indonesia which has many hindus and surely, they believe in spirits existence. According to the local people there, a person who has died, their spirits will leave their physical bodies which will be destroyed by the nature but their souls doesn't. They have special ceremony which called as Pitra Yadnya where the sequence of this ceremony usually called as Ngaben / Pelebon / Pralina, etc, and of course the ceremony levels are adapted with someone's level and position in society.

Ngaben, generally defined as cremation of the corpse, but that's not exactly right because of there's one of tradition in Ngaben which there's no cremation ceremony. Ngaben comes from word "Beya" means cost or stock ("biaya" or "bekal" in Indonesian), word "beya" in active sentence become "meyanin". Word meyanin has become standard language for Sawa Wadhana ceremony. It's also called as Ngabeyanin, then this word pronounced simply become "Ngaben". Ngaben or Meyanin in another standard term which is mentioned in Balinese literature called "Atiwa - Atiwa". No one knows the origin of word "Atiwa", but it's predicted come from the native language of Nusantara at past (Austronesian). The similar ceremony also occur in Dayak called "Tiwah" or in Batak which is called as "Tibal".

Ngaben or Meyanin or Atiwa-Atiwa, for the hindus in Tengger mountains known as "entas-entas". Word "entas" reminds us about the inseparable element from Ngaben ceremony in Bali named "Tirta Pangentas" which has function to release the relation between Atman (spirits) and their bodies and take them into the "Alam Pitara (afterlife). In polite balinese, Ngaben can be called as Palebon which comes from word "Lebu" means "Pertiwi" (earth). So, Palebon means to become the earth or in the other words, it means to unite by the earth. There's two ways to unite by the earth, by burning the corpse or by burying it into the ground, but the burning process is the fastest way. An object called "Pemasmian" is like a high tower (or it can be a chariot drawn by two cows), which has function as a corpse carrier and it will be burned together with the corpse. A place called "Sema" or "Setra" will be a vast field to burn the "Pemasmian" and the corpse inside.

Generally, the purpose of Ngaben are to process the return of Pancha maha bhuta into  the universe and to escort the soul into the realm of the spirits by releasing their affection with their bodies. By releasing the affection between the souls and its bodies, they can back to their realm, the realm of the spirits (in balinese called as Alam Pitra = the realm of the spirits). The process of Ngaben can't be delayed. It means after the bodies died physically, they must be cremated (Ngaben). Hindus in India have implemented this method in a long long time ago where in a very short time the corpse can be cremated, there's no complicated ceremonies, only need Panchaka as a place to lie the corpse, fragrant firewoods, and the holy spells and songs from Veda. 

Hindus in bali follow this ritual in principal. But they give some alternative such as : assemble the relatives, waiting for a good day (in balinese means Dewasa Ayu) according to the balinese calendar, but may not more than one yearBut actually, by using simple kind of Ngaben which has been stated in Lontar, Ngaben can be held anytime and anywhere in any circumstances. Meanwhile you need one year before make a cremation ceremony (Ngaben), sawa (the corpse) must be buried in a local cemetery. In order to avoid any undesirable things, a ceremony made for the corpse by using tirta pangentas (holy water for the corpse) and the process  of the return of Panca Maha Bhuta elements, especially Phrtiwi (earth) element, will run on this ceremony. 

Ngaben always identified in negative connotation (an extravagance), while you don't have enough money, you can't do a Ngaben. So that's why many negative opinions appear to the surface, one of the opinions is word "Ngabehin" comes from word "Ngaben" (an excessive). This assumption turns into a paradigm. At the end, many hindus in Bali can't make Ngaben because of lack of money and make the corpse buried in cemetery for many years. It's contra with the provitions stated on Lontar.
-Continued to the Part II -

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