Every year, the Hindus in Bali celebrate Nyepi, and the way they celebrate it is so spiritual and unique. Nyepi, known as the Balinese New Year’s Day, is a day of silence and reserved for self-reflection. People must stay home and are not allowed to use lights, start fires, work, travel or enjoy entertainment. Even tourists are asked not to leave their hotels during this day. The streets and roads all over Bali are empty of any traffic and only Pecalangs (traditional Balinese security man) are allowed to control and check for street security. Every year, the date changes (according to their calendar) and this year, Nyepi Days falls on 9th March 2016.
The Nyepi Day procession does not occur only for one day. Hindus have different rituals, starting from three days before Nyepi until one day after Nyepi.
The Melasti pilgrimages, which are held three days before Nyepi, are filled with colorful processions. Melasti is meant to clean the sacred statues, with symbols that help to concentrate the mind in order to become closer to God. The ceremony is aim to clean all nature and its content. All the effigies of the Gods from all the village temples are taken to the river in long and colorful ceremonies. Hundreds of people from each village carry temple artifacts to beaches for purification. They wear bright clothes starting early in the morning. The women carry tall offerings of fruit, cooked rice and natural foods on their heads, while some men walk along holding a long sheet of yellow and white cloth symbolizing the Bridge of God. This ceremony continues until early evening and are intended as spiritual purification for the whole village.
Tawur Kesanga, which falls one day before Nyepi, is filled with carnivals. All villages in Bali hold a large exorcism ceremony at the main village cross road, the meeting place of demons. They make Ogoh-ogoh (a monster of evil spirit with big bulging eyes, usually made of bamboo) for carnival purposes. The Ogoh-ogoh monsters symbolize the evil spirits surrounding our environment. The carnivals themselves are held all over Bali following sunset. In the evening, the Hindus celebrating Ngerupuk, where they start making noises and light burning torches to “burn” the Ogoh-ogoh monster. This burning ritual symbolizes how Bhuta Kala, the evil spirits, go out of our lives.
On the Nyepi Day itself, the Hindus follow a ritual called the Catur Brata Penyepian, or the ‘Four Nyepi Prohibitions’. These include amati geni (no fire), amati lelungan (no travel), amati karya (no activity), and amati lelanguan (no entertainment). Some people take this day as a time for total relaxation and contemplation, but for others, this day “gives” a chance for Mother Nature to ‘reboot’ herself after 364 days of human pestering. No motor vehicles whatsoever are allowed on the streets, except ambulances and police patrols and emergencies. No lights are turned on at night – total darkness and seclusion goes along from 06:00 pm to 06:00 am.
One day after Nyepi, known as Ngembak Geni, the Hindus usually visit forgive each other to forgive and read prayers. After successfully completing their day of restraint and purification, people go out to visit family and friends to ask forgiveness for their past mistakes.
A lot of tourist purposely visit Bali during this period. So if you want to witness this Silent Day, make sure to visit Bali in March and have this unique sacred experience you can never see anywhere else!
By Ivana Monica, ASEAN Correspondent from Indonesia