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Saturday, August 9, 2014
Within Hinduism, cremation (utilizing fire to reduce a dead body to ashes) is a process that is believed to set an individual's soul free from the body and allow that soul to take part in the reincarnation process. Historically, Balinese Hindu cremation ceremonies have been conducted in such as way as to provide a deceased individual with an elaborate tribute and send off. Many Balinese families have traditionally not been able to afford to cremate the body of a deceased relative immediately after that person's death (today, it is not uncommon for a Balinese Hindu cremation ceremony to cost a family the equivalent of a years income). Therefore, many Balinese families opt to bury the body of their relative (in a cemetery like the one found within the Sacred Monkey Forest of Padangtegal), work for several years in order to save up enough money for a cremation ceremony, and have the body of their relative exhumed just prior to his or her cremation.
Historically, most Balinese Hindu cemetery and cremation sites were located in remote areas (areas that were not within or immediately next to a village). An exception to this rule is cemetery sites utilized by upper caste Balinese (which have traditionally been located within family compounds). Today, although bodies are still buried within the Sacred Monkey Forest's cemetery, bodies are not cremated within the Sacred Monkey Forest. Instead, bodies are exhumed and prepared for cremation. Cremation preparation has traditionally involved the washing and wrapping a body in cloth (after being buried, most bodies have decomposed to the point that only bones remain). After a body is prepared for cremation, it is brought to another location where it is placed upon a cremation pyre. On the day of the cremation ceremony, village members carry the cremation pyre (and other pyres containing belongings of the deceased person) to the cremation site. However, cremation processions do not go directly to the cremation site and the cremation pyre, as the procession moves along , is turned around in circles. This is to insure that once a soul is released from a person's body, that soul will not be able to find its way back to the village. After a body is cremated, ashes and any remaining bones (after being washed) are placed in urns and distributed to family members. Some of the ashes and bones, as an aspect of Ancestor Worship, are placed in family temples (which are located in family compounds). Remaining ashes and bones are both caste into the sea and placed at several major Balinese Hindu temple sites.