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Besides birth rituals, cremation rites or Ngaben are the most important passages to be performed by the family because it is believed that the soul of the deceased cannot truly be released until liberated from the confines of the material body by cremation. It is considered a time of celebration not sadness for the Balinese, a time when the soul is able to become closer to a divine state. Due to the extremely costly nature of the ceremony and depending on the auspicious date requred, it is very common for the deceased to be buried until enough money can be saved up for the process or a group cremation can be performed.
Thedramaticprocess of rituals starts with the burning of an oil lamp outside the home of the deceased, then if not to be buried, is then followed by the mummification of the corpse in which the body is treated with a concoction of salt, turmeric, rice flower, vinegar and sandalwood powder after proper cleaning and then swathed in white cloth in preparation for the cremation. On the day of the funeral, the body is then inserted into an ornately decorated cremation tower made from bamboo and paper that symbolizes the universe with the upper tiers of the tower representing the various heavens where the soul if destined to travel to. In a joyful procession, the tower is carried by hand through the streets and to the cremation grounds where the body is then moved to a ‘sarcophagus’ in the shape of a bull or dragon that will be the vehicle to the mountain of the soul’s origin. After being doused with holy water, the container and tower are set ablaze in a massive conflagration reducing everything to ash. After the ceremony the ashes are collected and offered to the sea, representing the return of all physical remains to the five elements and thus freeing the soul to carry out it continuous cycle of reincarnation until Moksa is finally achieved depending on the karma of the individual.