“Mass cremations or Ngaben Massal (or sometimes in Balinese referred to as ‘Ngerit’) have become a way of life in village Bali – it represents considerable savings in time and money. It’s also convenient to catch up with families of the deceased and pay one’s respects in one centralized event! As Balinese tradition provides anyway for a system of ‘depositing’ the deceased either in fire or by burial, to be invoked or exhumed later for the actual ritual cremation (‘ngaben’ or ‘pelebon’), it really wasn’t a stretch to set schedules for joint, mass cremations. We explore the visuals of the actual ‘big day’, the main climactic part of the entire process of funerary rites.

All photos ©Rio Helmi except where indicated.

DSCF3532Children or other descendants of the deceased often ride the sarcophagi to the cemetery.


DSCF3549Ubud princes sit in the palace viewing pavilion above the crowd.


13709665_120300000038648714_833105709_oOn the way to the cemetery. photo ©Agus Suka Adi Surya


DSCF3685The hardest bit for the bearers (especially those at the back!) is the steep ramp up to the cemetery.


DSCF3634While the men haul it up, the kids hold on to it.


DSCF3784Pulling into the cemetery proper….



The ‘petak’ temporary homes for the ‘puspa’ spirit effigies where pre- and post-cremation rituals take place. From here, once the sarcophagi are in place, they will be ceremonially carried to the cemetery proper.


DSCF3997Eventually it’s time to bring all 96 of the “Puspa” effigies of the deceased to their respective sarcophagi.


13730476_120300000039870162_876384564_oA sarcophagus patiently waits…  photo ©Agus Suka Adi Surya

DSCF4554A ‘uniform’ family snaps at the first lighting of their relative’s sarcophagus

13728281_120300000038024543_500868481_oPhotographers resort to all the tricks to get their shot. photo©Agus Suka Adi Surya.

DSCF4476Then the serious burning starts, row by row.

DSCF4517The sarcophagus are doused and thrown over the edge to make room for the others…

DSCF4347Professional, migrant recycling scavengers from Jember in East Java going through the debris for recyclables even before the burning stopped.


13709496_120300000037985924_591368160_oThe chaotic systems of Balinese ceremony…  photo ©Agus Suka Adi Surya


ThThe ‘ashes’ are gathered and are ritually prepared for the last phase.