Up all night, Devils, Gods and firecrackers.
No noise, the streets are deserted, no light can be seen, even the planes stay still, dogs are quiet, no sound can be heard at all…Moreover you stay home, you don’t pass over the gate of your house or your hotel, you even tend to go a bit lazy without feeling any guilt at all, you cannot work anyway.
What’s going on?
Well, it’s Nyepi, the day of silence!
The Balinese New Year, every year around mid-march, is a day of purification for the Balinese Hindus.
The Balinese follow the Hindu calendar called Saka, this calendar is a tiny bit different than ours. It got 35 days per month and the Balinese have the chance to celebrate their birthdays twice a year. How lucky!!
Very spirituals, the traditions never dye and stay very popular, kept alive generations after generations. You probably noticed those little square baskets, made of Banana or coconut leaves and filled up with colorful flowers, on the side of the roads and on the temples. They are the offerings that are served daily for the Gods and Devils. Hinduism is a complex and interesting religion based on the balance between the good and the bad. We pray the Gods but also the Devils! Nyepi is actually one of the most impressive and special ceremony and surely one of the most respected! Even the airport is closed to follow the no-noise rule of this important day.
But why a day of complete silence?
Actually Nyepi is a day of purification. The goal is to make the bad spirits and devils believe that there is no more life on earth so they desert it and stop annoying humans like you and me. The silence is respected for 24 hours, from 6 am on Nyepi day to 6 am the next day. It is forbidden to turn on lights, to go out, to make any noise…Better prepare lots of food and a good book before and not forget to take a rest and take the opportunity to relax and breath!
The Hindus traditionally take the day to meditate, fast and review their behavior from the past year. However, nowadays, youngers take this free time to watch movie, play PlayStation, pass time with their family and friends, play cards or eat a nice slow-cook meal.
Only Pecalangs (kind of traditional police) are allowed to wander around the streets, checking that no one steps outside and that no light can be seen.
But don’t think that you cannot enjoy this day and do not delay your holidays because of that!
Instead, think about a day of total laziness, enjoying the pleasure of your hotel’s pool and fresh beers and cocktails. All hotels and villas offer minimum services on this day and you will still be able to walk around the hotel’s park. And anyway, you will probably sleep in after the late night that you had the day before because you were watching the famous and unique Ogoh Ogoh!
One to not be missed: The famous Ogoh Ogoh
The Ogoh Ogoh is a celebration which takes place the evening before Nyepi. The goal is to make as much noise as possible in order to scare away the devils that are trying to take over the Earth and that give us sickness and illness but also to absorb negative energies that us humans emit. It’s a bit the religious Balinese new year’s eve with firecrackers and good beers.
Get lost in small streets, villages and towns and you will find yourself face-to-face with huge status made of papers in the form of demoniac monsters marching down the busy streets carried on the shoulders of young Balinese men!!!
The traditional music accompanies this parade and add a happy note to the festivities.
This celebration is also a competition between Banjar (village associations), it’s who will craft the scariest monster, the most original and impressive one!
Those sculptures take the form of Balinese mythological characters, devils or even animals. The goal is to build the most terrifying monster as it is possible to imagine. Everything has a reason to be, a signification here in Bali, the big eyes of this monsters represent the humans and their desire of sensuality, the teeth, the violence and their big belly our greed and rapacity.
The parade lasts all night; the young’s proudly show of their creations to the happy spectators.
A mix of traditions and modernity
This tradition started only in the 80’s, before that, the inhabitants were doing animals sacrifices and were putting all their heart in doing as much noise a possible, hitting pans and cooking pots together!
Nowadays, the Balinese enjoy this day by relaxing, passing the day at home with their family and friends and eat all sorts of nice local food. Balinese are not strict and it’s not rare that some families book a room in a high class hotel to enjoy the pool and a bit of comfort.
The day before Nyepi, It’s also super busy in the supermarkets, everyone buying snacks and drinks to eat the next day, sometimes a few beers and very often new DVD’s and games to keep busy.
In Bali, the culture and traditions are part of the daily life and can be whiteness all day long pretty much everywhere. We can find the Ogoh Ogoh sculptures set up as decoration in resorts and hotels after they parade for Nyepi instead of being burned as the tradition normally expect it. The monsters are supposed to disappear in the flames of a burning fire in a sign of purification. Purification of the body, the mind, the earth…Its actually also a purification of the air that happens at Nyepi.
Imagine 24 hours without any car running, no plane flying, no factory working… Now the whole Island smells fresh, the air is pure, as are the spirits and everyone seems happy and calm.