Could you imagine your home town shutting down for an entire 24 hours? No leaving the house, no shopping, no visiting friends. A day where everything is closed, including the airport, and the rule is: keep quiet.
Just imagine, a day that was solely focused on peace to provide tranquility for self introspection, where everything stops to focus on values such as humanity, love and kindness for a full 24 hours.
The only place in the world where this happens is The Island of the Gods. The beautiful, culturally dense and magnetic Island of Bali.
Nyepi, know as “Day of Silence” is the ritual of the Hindus of Bali to welcome the New Year based on the traditional Caka calendar.
To kick off this celebration many traditions occur throughout the week prior. The entire Island is buzzing in harmony to proclaim the glory of the Hindu religion.
The day before Nyepi the ritual of Tawur Kisangana and Caru takes place. These are sacrificial rituals occurring at villages and provinces in the forms of livestock or crops reminding the Balinese of the importance of these assets and is meant to appease Batara Kala.
Known as the god of the underworld in traditional Javanese and Balinese mythology, Batara Kala is related to the Hindu concept of time and was known to cause eclipses by trying to eat the Sun or the Moon.
On this same day the ritual of Pengrupukan occurs during sunset. All across the island large paper-mâché puppets called Ogoh- Ogoh are paraded around the streets followed by villagers holding fire torches and musicians playing the kulkul bells.
It is a marvelous sight as these massive artworks are filled with symbols from mythology depicting stories and themes to keep in mind for the silent day to come.
The massive creations are made from lightweight materials such as wood, bamboo and styrofoam for the ease of being lifted. They take many months to create and are of impeccable craftsmanship. The term Ogoh-Ogoh is taken from Balinese “Ogah-Ogah” which means something which is shaken.
When these puppets are paraded around, their creators make them look like they are moving or dancing. Many are produced with advanced tools that make the Ogoh_Ogoh” move on its own.
These artworks are symbols of modes of nature in the form of evil spirits, taking the form of demons, water creatures, sometimes even celebrities! These ferocious looking creatures depict cruelty and the kind of energy that disturbs human life. The Parade is followed by a procession of the Ogoh-Ogoh where sacred stories are told through the form of dance and performance.
The Ogoh-Ogoh represent the Bhuta-Kala according to Hindu teachings where Bhuta refers to eternal energy and Kala refers to eternal time. So it is thought, perceptually, the potentials of nature are limitless and rather unfathomable but it is man’s duty to manage natural resources without damaging the environment.
After a night of celebration, the Ogoh-Ogoh are burned and destroyed. This is believed to keep the evil spirits away and any misfortune or illness that has burdened the island will be eradicated providing a fresh clean slate for the new year.
After a night of fun and excitement the entire island of Bali shuts down completely for Nyepi, the silent day. For a full 24 hours the beaches are bare, no waves are ridden and everything is closed, even the airport!
Quiet stillness is the perfect atmosphere to contemplate on the ways in which we can instill purity and harmony and the intentions we want to set for the upcoming year. Nyepi is a day for self reflection so anything that might interfere with that is totally banned.
Therefore, the specific rules are: no lighting fires, the use of lighting or satisfying pleasurable human appetites; prohibiting all forms of entertainment, recreations or general merrymaking; prohibiting movement of travel, requiring people to stay within their homes; prohibiting all forms of physical work other than those dedicated to spiritual cleansing and renewal.
Even though Nyepi is mostly a Hindu holiday, all residents of Bali observe the day of silence out of respect for their fellow citizens.
Everyone including tourists are encouraged to follow the guidelines and can be subject to punishment if caught breaking the rules. It is taken very seriously. And to be honest, the day was incredibly relaxing and a wonderful change of pace.
I spent my time doing yoga and painting with friends. Nyepi was filled with great (quiet) conversation and (gentle) laughter and was finished with the most magnetic star gazing show I have ever witnessed. It was truly a magical time to be in Bali.