Life cycle rites are very important moments for the Balinese. It starts with ceremonies for an unborn baby and it ends with the last ceremony of life, the cremation. It is very important that this is done well according to Balinese culture, as there is a strong believe 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 a hundreds of dollars a 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 of the people who die over a larger period of time (approximately 5 years) are cremated at the same time. This mass cremation helps because it allows richer 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 where the founder of VP Bali lives. At Volunteer Programs Bali, we put high value on community.
Therefore, during the days of preparations for this ceremony, we have been actively involved. A few days before the cremation ceremony took place, we have been cleaning the whole area of the village, together with all our students. It this way, Volunteer Programs Bali showed respect for the village to help them making the area rubbish-free before the big ceremony would start.
Volunteer Programs Bali supported the village by handing a donation to the village head so he could use that money to support the families for the ceremony. Also sugar, coffee and rice was donated to the members of the community.
Besides that, our local staff and founder have been attending the ceremony as well 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 wonderful and important event from up close and we are grateful that the community gave us this opportunity.