Ni Komang Erviani , Contributor , The Jakarta Post, Buleleng | Mon, 10/06/2008 9:59 AM | Bali
The people of Sembiran, an ancient village in the island’s northern coastal regency Buleleng, faithfully practice the pre-Hindu traditions of their forefathers.
They bury their dead instead of the cremation ritual Ngaben, which is obligatory for the majority of Balinese Hindus.
The Sembiran villagers also take a good care of several local megalithic sites.
The village lies 30 kilometers east of the regency’s capital Singaraja and 90 kilometers northeast of the island’s capital Denpasar. It has a population of 5,500 people, a large majority of which are Hindus, but unlike the kind of Hinduism practiced by fellow Balinese in other parts of the island.
The most obvious differences are the rituals for the dead. In Sembiran, the dead will be buried in a modest ceremony. Eleven days later, the family and close relatives of the deceased will conduct Pamelas Atma (literally “to bid the soul farewell”). This ritual will be followed by Ngelumbah and Ngundang rituals to release the soul from worldly attachments and to assist the soul to achieve union with the Almighty.
The tradition of burying the dead is a new tradition for Sembiran’s people. The head of Sembiran customary village, Ketut Suardika, said that the tradition started in the 1960s. Prior to that era, the deceased would be simply placed on the ground in a very simple ceremony, with only a few offerings.
It was similar to the practice carried out by the people of the ancient village of Trunyan. In Trunyan, the tradition is still preserved until today. In Sembiran, the people had to change the tradition after facing several problems, such as repulsive odors and desecration of the deceased by wild dogs.
“The village held a public gathering, during which the villagers decided to bury the bodies,” he said.
The villagers also continued the practices of preserving and respecting the pre-Hindu, megalithic artifacts kept at two temples, Dulu and Dalem. The artifacts also are stored at several other temples. “Out of 20 temples in the village, 17 still display megalithic features,” Suardika added.
Most of these megalithic artifacts are placed in the shrines, signifying their revered status.
Archaeologist Prof. Ketut Rindjin in his book The History of Sembiran said that there were around 60 stone and metal tools found in the village in 1961, suggesting that the village was an important archaeological site.
The Sembiran’s people are also the custodians of numerous sacred dances, including Rejang Sembiran, Baris Dadap, Baris Presi and Baris Jojor. The dances are performed only on special days by selected groups of people.
The Buleleng administration has designated the ancient village as one of its main tourism destinations. It has assisted the villagers in constructing a traditional house fully equipped with various traditional tools. Visitors can spend the night in the house.
“With the availability of this house we hope visitors will not have any difficulty in finding accommodation in our village,” Suardika stressed.