Thousands attend ‘memukur’ deification ceremony
Clad in white traditional Balinese costumes, thousands of people attended one of the most important rites of passages — the memukur ceremony — at Matahari Terbit (Sunrise) Beach in Sanur on Sunday. It is a post-cremation ritual held right after, or months after, the families organize the ngaben cremation.
The ngaben cremation ritual involves the burning of the deceased’s body to release the soul from the entrapment of the five physical elements. At the end of ngaben, the ashes of the soul are scattered into the ocean, or waterways, in a symbolic act of placing the soul into the care of Baruna, the Lord of the Oceans. It is believed that during this period the soul will carry out various religious duties, from cleansing the temples to dancing and playing gamelan at various holy sites across the island.
The families will request the presence of the souls again in the memukur ceremony. The souls are placed in puspa lingga or puspa sarira, an effigy made of precious sandalwood and flowers.
The puspa lingga is burned at the peak of memukur to symbolize the destruction of the subtle elements of emotions, perceptions and intelligence that still bind the soul. After memukur, only the imprint of the karmic actions — the good and bad deeds during the person’s lifetime — remain attached to the soul and will determine the future incarnation.
At the end of memukur, the families will conduct a meajar-ajar pilgrimage to Goa Lawah temple and Besakih mother temple to announce to the gods that the deceaseds’ souls have undergone memukur and that the families are ready to enshrine the soul at their respective merajan (family temple).
The whole process of the ritual will be closed with the ngelinggihang dewa hyang ceremony, during which souls are escorted into family temples and deified at one of the shrines. From that moment, families will no longer treat the souls as human. Instead, families will treat and revere the souls as a deities.
I Gusti Bagus Mataram, a member of the organizing committee, said that memukur was actually one of the most important ceremonies for a Balinese, without which no one was believed to be able to enter swarga. So important is this rite that it requires the most complete set of offerings, costing the family years of income.
To ease the burden of low- and middle-income families, the Denpasar mayoralty held a mass Pitra Yadnya ceremony for 600 families, including a mass cremation, mass tooth filing and now memukur, as part of its effort to preserve cultural and religious heritages.
“The mayoralty prepared Rp 2 billion (US$ 212,000) to hold these mass ceremonies. We hope they can become annual activities to help people complete their religious rituals,” Mataram added. Last week, around 300 people, mostly teenagers of the 600 families, took part in a mass tooth filing, or mepandes, ceremony.
Ni Wayan Harsi, one of the families participating in the memukur, admitted that she was happy to take part in this expensive ritual that her family could not afford. Harsi’s family was dedicating the ritual to her mother who had died and already been cremated a year ago. “But we have not held the memukur ceremony because of money constraints,” said Harsi, who came to the beach with her extended 20-member family.
Made Parwa, another participant, shared his relief saying he had waited for years to hold the memukur ritual for his parents. “My monthly salary cannot cover such a costly and elaborate ritual. We cannot even save any money as it is all used for daily needs,” Parwa said. This kind of government sponsored ceremony was very helpful for poor families like his, he said.