Time to stay in, keep quiet and turn off the lights
Bali is currently busy preparing another festivity in welcoming the Saka New Year 1941, known as Nyepi, which according to the Balinese calendar system will fall on Thursday, the 7th of March. The Balinese New Year is a celebration unlike anywhere else in the world. It falls on the day after the spring equinox and is a day of complete silence, self-reflection, meditation and fasting.
On the actual day of Nyepi, which is the 3rd day of a 6-day festival, the entire Island is “closed”. The roads are off limit to all types of vehicles and even people walking, the airport is completely closed, all restaurants, supermarkets and other types of shops are closed too, the beach is prohibited and basically anything other then being indoors is restricted for tourists and Balinese alike.
When the whole island of Bali shuts down, complete calm enshrouds the island. The Balinese Hindus follow a ritual called the Catur Brata Penyepian, meaning the “Four Nyepi Prohibitions”. These include
So regardless if you are a local or a tourist:
You cannot go anywhere outside
You have to be completely quiet
You can’t use electricity
No work, no entertainment
The Balinese believe that after the noisy and active celebrations of day 1 and day 2, the Island must go into hiding to protect itself from the evil spirits, fooling them to believe that Bali, enveloped in an atmosphere of complete tranquility and peace, is in fact a deserted island. This dates back to the mythical times of evil spirits, Gods, superheroes and witches.
SO WHAT IF SOMEONE DOES NOT RESPECT THE RULES?
Well, if the local Balinese police patrol, also called Pecalang, catches you on the street during the Silence Day or they see you’re using lights or electricity in your home, or they hear you being noisy, they might punish you with a chore such as having to clean a temple.
OGOH-OGOH PARADE FOLLOWS: FROM COMPLETE SILENCE TO AS MUCH NOISE AS POSSIBLE
Then the day before Nyepi a parade of “Ogoh Ogoh” meaning “monsters” starts everywhere on the streets of Bali, held to chase away malevolent forces. There’s a sense of excitement in the air that starts weeks before the parade, as people are crafting huge, ugly ogoh-ogoh monsters with dilated eyes and hairy backs, as a representation of evil spirits. Each neighborhood in Bali prepares their own grotesque creations, which are paraded through the streets, accompanied by traditional gamelan bands and drumming. The Balinese say that this symbolizes burning all evil spirits or chasing them away. So each family will commit to making as much noise as possible to remove the negative forces by hitting pots and banging on noisy objects. Then most of these ogoh-ogohs are being burnt right after the parade. Bamboo cannons and firecrackers will fill the air with flames and smoke.
This is one of those unique experiences that you should add on your bucket list. Join the magical celebration of Bali’s New Year and expect to be mesmerized!
Written by Cristina, YOUniverse