The last ceremony, Pitra yadnya,Ngaben (cremation), is often the biggest, most spectacular, noisy and exciting event. Because of the burdensome cost of even a modest cremation ceremony, the deceased are buried, sometimes for years, and disinterred for a mass cremation with the cost shared among families. Brahmanas (high priests), however, must be cremated immediately.
The body is carried in a tall, incredibly artistic multitiered tower made of bamboo, paper, tinsel, silk, cloth, mirrors, flowers and anything else colourful, on the shoulders of a group of men. The number of tiers of the tower depends on the importance of the deceased. The funeral of a rajah or high priest may require hundreds of men to tote the 11-tiered structure.
Along the way, the group confuses the deceased's spirit so it cannot find its way back home. They shake the tower, run it around in circles, throw water at it and generally make the trip anything but a stately funeral crawl. Meanwhile, the priest halfway up the tower hangs on grimly, doing his best to soak bystanders with holy water. A gamelan sprints behind, providing an exciting musical accompaniment.
At the cremation ground, the body is transferred to a funeral sarcophagus which corresponds to the deceased's caste, a black bull for a Brahmana, white bull for priests, winged lion for a Ksatriya, and elephant-fish etc. for a sudra. Finally, it all goes up in flames and the ashes are taken to the sea to be scattered on the waves. With the material body well and truly destroyed, the soul is free to descend to heaven and wait for the next incarnation.