Shmashana – A Sacred Hindu Cremation Ground

Where are we going? That's a question that arises most commonly within our day to day life. Whether it's a big or small question we all want an answer. Mainly to be able to make the next move or if more profoundly felt, it’s usually when we come to a still point in our lives. Which direction do we want to take?  There is one certainty that we all know, ultimately we are all heading for the Smashan. Yes the graveyard. And what's in between birth and death is our free will, the choices we alone can make along the journey.

Visiting the Smashan in Bali is not for the faint hearted and truly a profound experience. A time of releasing the heart from attachments to loved ones that have passed on. Especially in the Hindu tradition, it is a celebration and honouring the transition between death and the next life.


It was refreshing to see the Balinese community in tune with the natural process of life and death as one and the same thing, just the flip side of the coin. Life and death is to be celebrated and with that their rituals help relinquish the ego of pride and sorrow.

Life has a funny way of presenting situations that you may think of as frustrating or wrong but in the end it shows you something that is very right. Allow me to relate one of these moments. In this case my friend Titi and I had decided to choose google maps to takes us to our destination, a small village, part of the Gianyar district of Bali. Titi had been invited by her Balinese family to the cremation of two of their family members. One of them was also very close to her and it was imperative that she should be present.


After sometime of turning around and around we realized Miss Google was leading us in the wrong direction. Driving in Bali is no fun especially if you don't know the way. Directions from Google and directions from locals had us chasing our tails so to speak. Frustrations, and stress ensued and after two hours, which should have been less than one, we finally arrived in the Smashan temple of Desa Buruan. An impressive open air crematorium with 12 different elaborate funeral piers, depending on one’s wealth. Ornate gold - leaf decorations and offerings surrounded the photographs of the deceased where each extended family gathered. People with smiles and warm hearts adorned in beautiful ceremonial clothes were everywhere. To see blazing fires all lit simultaneously and feel the heat and smell the sweet holy scents of a Balinese cremation left us awstuck! And now,  to think that we nearly gave up to keep going would have been a terrible shame.

But what was most noteworthy of the experience was that on just having parked the car and upon the exact moment of opening the door who should be just there passing by? Illuh, my friends adopted daughter and whose mother was being cremated. Titi overjoyed and was gratefully convinced that her dear deceased friend, Illu’s mother, was playing some role in the auspicious timing of the meeting. And yes I must agree it was a beautiful, synchronistic blessing for our efforts because without Illuh it may have been another frustration in trying to find her amongst the hundreds of people who were there. 

 It made us realize that although you might have made the wrong choice ( google maps in Bali don’t trust them) it was all for a very good reason and to actually make ourselves frustrated and worried that we weren't going to ever arrive is a waste of energy. Life has something else in store for you, whether the choice is good or bad.  So Trust, it seems should be given more credit and not Worry.  Our little journey was a poignant symbol of the Merry-go-round of life and the eventual destination for us all, the  Smashan. That's where we will all arrive!! And we did! Haha