There are many delights in travel but non so more than those occurrences that are spontaneous; those that just happen in front of your eyes, so to speak, or those that you come across by pure accident. Oddly enough these seem to happen in Indonesia quite a bit and more so in Bali. I have no reason why. For instance, where I reside in Bali at the Prawita Cottages the restaurant backs onto the main drag of Jalan Legian. There we were one morning just enjoying some delicious bubur ayam when I became aware of a loud clash of cymbals and drums being struck. Never being one to miss out on a photo opportunity or even to deny my curiosity, I walked out onto the street to see a ceremonial procession approaching. I turned to my friend Wayan and asked him what was going on. He told me it was a Ngaben, or cremation ceremony; a ritual performed in Bali to send the deceased to the next life. I had seen many cremations in Bali over the decades and always found them to be culturally enlightening.
In between clicking away with my camera and being absorbed in the beauty of this procession, I asked Wayan to tell me more in depth about Ngaben. Quite nonchalantly but sincerely Wayan explained that the body of the deceased is placed as if sleeping and the family continue to treat the deceased as sleeping. No tears are shed. This is because the deceased is only temporarily not present and will reincarnate or find his final rest in Moksha; freeing from the reincarnation and death cycle. Wayan continued to explain that a specialist is consulted for the process and on the on the day of the ceremony, the body of the deceased is placed inside a coffin. This coffin is placed inside a sarcophagus resembling a buffalo, or Lembu, or in a temple structure called a Wadah made of paper and wood. The buffalo or temple structure will be carried to the cremation site in a procession. The procession is not walking in a straight line. This is to confuse bad spirits and keep them away from the deceased. The climax of Ngaben is the burning of the whole structure, together with the body of the deceased. The fire is necessary to free the spirit from the body and enable reincarnation.
If you do find yourself being afforded the opportunity of witnessing this kind of ceremonial process, or any other Balinese ritual, then please be respectful when taking photographs and definitely no in-your-face lens shots!