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A vast majority of Balinese people are Hindu. Balinese Hindus believe in reincarnation; that after death, the soul is reborn into ones own family lineage, and goes through the cycle of rebirth numerous times until being liberated. Cremation is a very important step in this process, in that it purifies the deceased and prepares them for re-birth, hence all Balinese Hindus are cremated, sometimes at great cost to the family. A small minority of Balinese are Christian or Muslim, who are buried rather than cremated upon their death due to different religious beliefs about what happens after death.
In addition to their cremations, the Balinese honor the spirits of the dead every year. During a ritual ceremony known as Galungan departed souls are invited back to earth to be honored. Ten days later, during a ritual known as Kuningan, the souls return to heaven.
I met Nyoman while doing fieldwork in Indonesia in the 1990s. He worked as my driver on many trips, and we developed a close friendship. I knew how important being able to bury his father was for Nyoman, and so I filmed the event.
Nyoman and his family are wellhe has a small peanut business, which supports his extended family, and he remains one of my closest friends in Indonesia.
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