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Home » Arts & Culture, Religion

Bound by Obligation: to Ancestors  

by on Monday, 22 October 2007No Comment | 768 views

Ancestor worship is a vital part of Balinese Hinduism, and it is not an exaggeration to say that ceremony for ancestor is as pompous as ceremony for gods. Philosophically, the veneration of ancestor is based on the belief that all Balinese owe their existence, their life and their wisdom to their ancestors. Parents, grand parents, great grand parent, and so on are the one who took many great ordeals to bring their descendants to the world, raise them, and give them knowledge to survive in this world. These produce a concept of debt to ancestors (pitra rna) which at the end creates a sense of obligation to hold various ceremonies to worship the ancestors.

Though the scripture put emphasis on the idea of debt to ancestor as the foundation of holding various ceremonies to worship the ancestor but for most of the Balinese, the obligation to venerate the ancestor is created base on the fear of the rage of the ancestor and on the hope of obtaining special favor from the ancestor. In Balinese belief the ancestors have divine power to help their descendants, they watch over their descendants, act as guardian spirits, provide valuable help in the time of need and danger. But the descendants neglect their ancestors, fail to give sufficient homage or veneration the rage of ancestors is surely the source of various calamities and sicknesses.

Sometimes the ceremonies which are dedicated to the ancestor not just functions to pay the debt to the ancestor, to avoid their wrath or to win their favor but also serve various additional functions, such as symbol of status or economical achievement, willingness to sacrifice for the ancestors and some people consider it as an expression of love to the ancestor. For example a grand cremation ceremony may be a result of various motives; such the family members of the deceased want to show their economic achievement, to emphasis their social status, to avoid negative image of thrifty or unwillingness to sacrifice for the sake of the deceased, to show how deep they love the deceased.

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