Human Studies Film Archives

Guide to the Ngaben film, 1978


Collection ID:
Holaday, Duncan
Institute for Intercultural Studies
Chin, Woon Ping
May 1978
Physical Description:
1 Film reel
22 minutes
color sound negative; 800 feet

Scope and Contents

Scope and Contents
Footage of a ngaben a Balinese Hindu cremation ceremony in the village of Penyaringan, Bali, May, 1978, documents one of the most elaborate rites of passage performed by Balinese householders whereby the dead, through cremation, are transformed into purified spirits whose assistance can be enlisted in human affairs. Documentation includes: ngentenin (a Hindu ceremony to waken the soul of the dead) led by a Brahman Priest for members of the Gede family; construction of a wada (seven-tiered cremation tower signifying the levels of the Kesatrya caste), the performance of music and dance in a specially constructed pavillion for guests, procession of the wada to the cremation site where it is burned, a tooth filing ceremony, and a procession to the sea where the ashes of the deceased are cast into the water.
Crossing and recrossing the river is significant in the procession to the burial ground and returning. Holy water brought in bambo containers used to sanctify the bones of the dead. A special pavilion for guests is the site of music and dance. Drums and a bamboo gambioion are the musical instruments. Gifts of pig and white cloth to the Gedes family. Members of the family are identified. A photographic portrait is used in the cermony. A pig is sacrificed at the start of the cermony. Food is prepared, sausage is made. Holy water is brought to sanctify the Wada, the bones are placed, and the procession continues to the crematon site. At arrival on the site the bones of eleven are placed on a platform and cremated to ash. ; The Wada is burned as the music increases in intensity. A procession for the tooth filing cermony. The cermony ends the next day with a procession to the sea. The ashes are thrown to the sea.
The cameramen are I Ketutm Wiryana and I Gede Wisura, a Political Science lecturer at the University of Indonesia. Sound is not sync sound. Supplementary materials: 4
Please note that the contents of the collection and the language and terminology used reflect the context and culture of the time of its creation. As an historical document, its contents may be at odds with contemporary views and terminology and considered offensive today. The information within this collection does not reflect the views of the Smithsonian Institution or Anthropology Archives, but is available in its original form to facilitate research.

Biographical / Historical

Biographical / Historical
Duncan and Ping Holaday are Fulbright Professors at the University of Indonesia; I Gede Wisura is a Political Science lecturer at the University of Indonesia.


Immediate Source of Acquisition
Received from Duncan Holaday in 1981.
Processing Information
Titles are supplied by the archivist for untitled films.

Using the Collection

Conditions Governing Use
Contact the repository for terms of use.
Conditions Governing Access
The collection is open for research. Please contact the archives for information on availability of access copies of audiovisual recordings. Original audiovisual material in the Human Studies Film Archives may not be played.
Preferred Citation
Ngaben film, Human Studies Film Archives, Smithsonian Institution

More Information

Local Number

Local Number
HSFA 1981.1.1


Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Southeast Asia Geographic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Bali (Indonesia : Province) Geographic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Sound films Genre Form Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Funeral rites and ceremonies Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Music Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Dance Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Musical instruments Topical Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Human Studies Film Archives
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4210 Silver Hill Road
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