I have just returned from Bali, a trip timed intentionally to coincide with one of the biggest celebrations of the Bali Hindu calendar, Nyepi.
Worth experiencing at least once in your lifetime, this very unique New Year celebration unlike anywhere else in the world is celebrated in total silence. It is the quietest day of the year where all inhabitants including non Hindu & tourists abide by local laws that brings Bali to a complete halt including the airport.
But before the day of silence there is Melasti held 3 days prior to Nyepi. We scootered from Canggu through the very busy & numerous blocked off streets to Petitenget Temple to see the thousands of pilgrims in white traditional dress parade from their villages & temples carrying important possessions from their homes & temples to the ocean to carry out eleborate purification rituals. Once the parade enters the temple area they snake through the temple to be blessed & then down onto the beach to complete the purification rituals & offerings.
Individuals that believe they are inhabited by evil spirits or even bad thoughts enter a trance like state before being led to the beach & into the water to be cleansed & purified of their demons. Men carry out acts whereby they pretend to stab themselves with long daggers before running into the water to be rid of the evil they believe is inhabiting their bodies.
Bright coloured floats with coloured umbrellas & banners add the the spectacle that was a fabulous sight it is to witness.
On Nyepi eve it is all noise & chaos as locals begin the night with blessings in family temples followed by a ritual called "pengrupukan" where pots & pans are banged & music played to 'chase away evil forces & spirits" that the balinese call Bhuta Kala. These spirits are later manifested as the Ogoh Ogoh are paraded in the streets.
Ogoh Ogoh are paper mache creations in the shape of mythical creatures that are generally designed & built by the youth of the village. Believed to be a relatively new part of Nyepi, they have now become an important element of the Islands celebrations.
We could hear the drums as the parade came closer to our villa so we headed up to the street where we were caught up in the throng of the parade joining the locals on the street as we followed the parade up to the main intersection. The crowd began cheering and screaming, the drums got louder, lights flashed & torches blazed and the Ogoh Ogoh creatures were spun around clockwise then anti clockwise on the T intersection in an effort to confuse the evil spirits.
Nyepi began the next morning at 6am when we woke to gentle rain. We were well prepared within our villa with food & drink for the next 24hrs as peace and calm enveloped the island of Bali. There is no where else in the world celebrates new year like it, in total silence. The quietest day of the year where all inhabitants including tourists abide by the rules that bring all activities including the airport to a complete halt.
Everone abides by the ritual of the four Nyepi prohibitions of no travel, no fire, no entertainment, no activity & that includes no TV or internet. The streets are empty except for the local security, the pecalang who are out keeping an eye on things to make sure nobody disobeys the rules.
Nyepi is for most a day for prayer, meditation & introspection & for others it's a day to reboot with complete rest & relaxation.
I definitely used it for the latter, catching up on sleep and a bit of reading. I think all Bali lovers should experience Nyepi & it's associated ceremonies at least once. I thought the day of silence was beautiful & was truly perplexed when I heard other tourists complain that it takes away from their holiday. I say embrace it, where else on the whole planet does an island completely shut down like this for one day only, and at the end of the day isn't rest what holidays are for!
Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed learning a little about the Balinese New Year celebrations.
Until next time, Jules
All images belong to Indah Escapes & Susan Grant
with the exception of the image of the children holding torches via Tripcanvas