Nyepi is all the fuss!
Nyepi Day in Bali is a New Year celebration unlike anywhere else on the planet. Nyepi follows after a new moon. Bali’s celebrates the Saka New Year as the Bali Day of Silence, an ultimately quietest day of the year, when all of the island’s inhabitants abide by a set of local rules, which brings all routine activities to a complete halt. Roads all over Bali are void of any traffic and nobody steps outside of their home premises.
I am so grateful to be here in Bali to experience this wonderful day. When I heard about it I had to ask again, the whole island shuts down, even the airport? Seriously, I want one of these days in Canada, several, in fact.
It has been a real treat and special experience to be witness to all the goings on while the Balinese people prepare for this special day. It’s funny you would think a day of silence, a day of not leaving your home wouldn’t take any preparations at all really! Not the case, I guess just like us Canadians and New Years Eve, we stock up on food, drink and party favours as we ready ourself for the biggest celebration of the year. The balinese people are no different; although this is a different kind of New Years Celebration. A day of rest, a day of quiet, a day of nothingness. Oh Joy!
This unique day of silence marks the turn of the Saka calendar of western Indian origin, one among the many calendars assimilated by Indonesia’s diverse cultures, and among two jointly used in Bali.
The Nyeip event has the villages preparing during the whole week before, making papier-mâché effigies called ogoh-ogoh. There are many temples with ogoh-ogoh figures in the making, hundred of people all working together to bring these mythical figures to life for the festival that will take place the day before this blessed event, Nyepi. These artistic creations have been part of the celebration since its inception.
Before ‘the silence’, highlight rituals essentially start three days prior to Nyepi, with colourful processions known as the Melasti pilgrimages. Pilgrims from various village temples all over Bali convey heirlooms on long walks towards the coastlines where elaborate purification ceremonies take place. It is one of the best times to capture on camera the iconic Balinese processions in motion, as parasols, banners and small effigies offer a cultural spectacle.
Then on Saka – New Year’s Eve – it is all blaring noise and merriment. Every Balinese household starts the evening with blessings at the family temple and continues with a ritual called the pengrupukan where each member participates in ‘chasing away’ malevolent forces, known as bhuta kala, from their compounds – hitting pots and pans or any other loud instruments along with a fiery bamboo torch. These ‘spirits’ are later manifested as the ogoh-ogoh to be paraded in the streets. As the street parades ensue, bamboo cannons and occasional firecrackers fill the air with flames and smoke.
When the Whole Island Shuts Down on Nyepi Day, complete calm enshrouds the island. The Balinese Hindus follow a ritual called the Catur Brata Penyepian, roughly the ‘Four Nyepi Prohibitions’. These include amati geni or ‘no fire’, amati lelungan or ‘no travel’, amati karya ‘no activity’, and amati lelanguan ‘no entertainment’. Some consider it a time for total relaxation and contemplation, for others, a chance for Mother Nature to ‘reboot’ herself after 364 days of human pestering.
No lights are turned on at night – total darkness and seclusion goes along with this new moon island-wide, from 06:00 to 06:00. No motor vehicles whatsoever are allowed on the streets, except ambulances and police patrols and emergencies.
As a hotel guest, you are confined to your hotel premises, but free to continue to enjoy the hotel facilities as usual. Traditional community watch patrols or pecalang enforce the rules of Nyepi, patrolling the streets by day and night in shifts.
The Ashram and all of its guests will be participating in this even; although still chanting throughout the day, the rest of the day will be quiet. I am excited for the quiet of the streets, no scooters buzzing by 24-7.
I have been lucky enough to be witness several blessing ceremonies as I walk the streets of Ubud Bali. It is so amazing to watch these people carry baskets of offerings on their heads walking down the road to the temple, putting them all around the inside of the temple where they are blessed and shared with one another at the end of the ceremony. Little children are dressed up in the traditional costume and look absolutely adorable, they are always quick with a smile.
This culture, as I have said before, is so dynamic and so passionate about their rituals, their believes and their devotion and it is displayed in every village. Even the dogs get to be part of the ceremony, they just wander wherever they wander and people are not concerned with them, they just do what dogs are suppose to do, roam around.
The information for this article has been used from the website below with my added commentary throughout.
Stay tuned for the Nyepi Eve event that I am certainly attending with my camera in hand to capture as much of it as I can.