On Collective Cremation
Collective cremation season is on in Bali, dozens of collective cremation take place in eastern area of Bali especially in the regency of Gianyar, Klungkung and Bangli, some collective cremations also stage in Tabanan. Collective cremation rituals are done for large numbers of people (of potentially varying statuses) at the same time. By sharing many offerings and other expenses together, the cost per person can be dramatically reduced. Holding individual ngaben ceremony is not cheap and would cost a family anywhere from tens of millions of rupiah to hundreds of millions of rupiah. On the other hand, taking part in a collective cremation (ngerit) ceremony will only cost a family somewhere between two and five million rupiah.
Ngerit was introduced in 1963 at the time of Mount Agung exploded, claiming thousands of casualties and a collective cremation which enable the survivor to cremate a large number of corpses in a simple way was introduced. The spiritual leaders at that time simplified the offerings and rituals of ngaben, while maintaining the sanctity and the essence of the ceremony. Nowadays ngerit is held to enable every Hindu family, even the poorest, in Bali to carry out a cremation ceremony. All around Bali, banjars and sometimes even whole villages are increasingly turning to collective cremations.
An interesting phenomenon in this collective cremation is variety of participant status. Statuses ranged from Anak Agung (royalty) to many jaba (non-noble) titles. The nobles were cremated in lion figures located in the most auspicious northeastern section of the cemetery; lower statuses were arranged in rows in much simpler sarcophagi. Certain sorts of offerings were shared by all, such as offerings used to request holy water from important non-kinship temples and offerings at the important shrine to the sun (surya). Holy water from non-kinship temples was combined and used by all; holy water from kinship temples was kept separate for each title group. Thus, higher status persons received higher status sarcophagi (associated with their title) in a more auspicious location, and slightly more elaborate forms of some other ritual paraphernalia; yet all received essentially the same set of the really important offerings, and all the deceased were conducted to the afterworld at the same time by the same set of priests (sometimes groups request that their group’s priest participate, so in these cases all are conducted by their respective priests at the same time).
This phenomenon serves to strengthen the sense of togetherness among members of the banjar and the whole community in a village. This mass ceremony also helps those involved work together while at the same time improving their spirit of cooperation and mutual respect.