Ngaben is a unique Hindu cremation ceremony observed in Bali in Indonesia. On the day several cremations take place together – families that cannot afford the cost of the cremation ceremony share the day. Unlike Hinduism in India, the bodies are not cremated immediately after death in Bali. They are typically buried in a funeral and then placed in a temple facing the sea. The corpses are then retrieved three days before the Ngaben cremation, the date of which is decided upon by the community.
The ceremony, well known as Ngaben, is shared by mourners who could not afford to perform the ritual by themselves.
Ngaben, which means 'turn to ash', is considered the last and most important rite in the cycle of a Balinese Hindu life.
In Balinese culture, cremation is believed to free spirits from the burning bodies so they may reincarnate or return to heaven.
The corpses are placed in individual coffins and then in sarcophagi made of paper and wood which are burned at the end of a long procession.
Traditionally the procession is not walked in a straight line to confuse bad spirits and keep them away from the bodies.
The ritual involves holy songs and offerings, and is considered a joyous occasion for mourners who are releasing their loved ones from the restrictions of worldly life.
Typically, mourners try not to cry during these ceremonies for fear that they will halt the deceased in their journey to the afterlife.
But some communities believe the shedding of a tear towards the end of the ritual can mean the spirit has completed its journey.
When the fire has burned out, the ashes of bones are separated from the rest of the residue and placed in white and yellow cloth with flowers.
Once the ashes have been collected the 'initial purification' is complete, and the soul is ready for the third stage of ritual which is known as the 'final purification'.
During this ceremony, which usually occurs 12 days after cremation, the ashes that were collected are taken to the sea or a nearby river.
It is believed that once the soul has been purified by fire which represents earth, it must be purified by water so it may return to heaven to begin the process of reincarnation.
According to tradition, the deceased returns to human life in the form of the next born family member after these rituals.