Mass cremation in a Balinese village

Life cycle rites are significant moments for the Balinese. The cycle starts with ceremonies for an unborn baby and ends with the last ceremony of life, the cremation. According to Balinese culture, the ceremonies must be done well, as there is a strong belief in the afterlife and reincarnation. Balinese people aren’t easily stressed, but the one thing that can create stress is the thought of not being able to afford the cremation of your parents and other close family. Cremations can financially ruin poor and middle-class families who, by tradition, must provide a suitable cremation ceremony for their loved ones, which can cost thousands of dollars. When you are a farmer earning only hundreds of dollars per year, it can mean selling your land or not putting your kids in school.

Fortunately, many Balinese villages have adopted the practice of Ngaben Massal (mass cremations), where all people who die over a larger period (approximately five years) are cremated simultaneously. This mass cremation helps because it allows more affluent families to subsidize poor ones and allows every family to perform their sacred obligations to their loved ones. Often the banjar (Balinese community) also supports this big event by helping the families who can’t afford the whole process but only a part of it.

Last September, a Ngaben Massal took place in the village where one of our programs is located and the founder of VP Forever lives. At Volunteer Programs Bali, we put a high value on community life.

Therefore, during the days of preparations for this ceremony, we have been actively involved. A few days before the cremation ceremony, we helped clean the whole village area. In this way, Volunteer Programs Forever showed respect for the village to help them make the area rubbish-free before the big ceremony started.

Volunteer Programs Bali supported the village by donating to the village head so he could use that money to support the families for the ceremony. Also, sugar, coffee and rice were donated to the members of the community.

Besides that, the founder has also been attending the ceremony to show our respect. The local community greatly appreciated our efforts to be involved in their cultural activities.

It was very special to experience such a wonderful and essential event up close, and we are grateful that the community gave us this opportunity.