Nyepi Day 2017 in Bali 

The Day of Silence- 28th March 2017


Text by Titas Khan, Photo Courtesy @Indonesia Tourism


Nyepi Day in Bali commemorated every sakawarsa (Saka new year) is a New Year celebration unlike anywhere else on the planet. It is a Hindu celebration mainly celebrated in Bali, Indonesia. Bali’s celebrates the Saka New Year as the Bali Day of Silence, an ultimately quietest day of the year, when all of the island's inhabitants abide by a set of local rules, which brings all routine activities to a complete halt. Nyepi, a public holiday in Indonesia, is a day of silence, fasting and meditation for the Balinese. The day following Nyepi is also celebrated as New Year's Day. On this day, the youth of Bali practice the ceremony of Omed-omedan or 'The Kissing Ritual' to celebrate the new year. The same day celebrated in India as Ugadi.

 

Observed from 6 a.m. until 6 a.m. the next morning, Nyepi is a day reserved for self-reflection, and as such, anything that might interfere with that purpose is restricted. The main restrictions are no lighting fires (and lights must be kept low); no working; no entertainment or pleasure; no travelling; and, for some, no talking or eating at all. The effect of these prohibitions is that Bali's usually bustling streets and roads are empty, there is little or no noise from TVs and radios, and few signs of activity are seen even inside homes. The only people to be seen outdoors are the Pecalang, traditional security men who patrol the streets to ensure the prohibitions are being followed.

 

Roads all over Bali are void of any traffic and nobody steps outside of their home premises. Most Balinese and visitors regard it as a much-anticipated occasion. Some experts and those coming from neighbouring islands prefer escaping Bali for the day rather, due to restrictions that surround the observance. Some visitors check coinciding dates ahead before their Bali trip, avoiding it altogether. 

 

Although Nyepi is primarily a Hindu holiday, non-Hindu residents and tourists are not exempt from the restrictions. Although they are free to do as they wish inside their hotels, no one is allowed onto the beaches or streets, and the only airport in Bali remains closed for the entire day. The only exceptions granted are for emergency vehicles responding to life-threatening conditions and women about to give birth.

 

Anyhow, Nyepi is worth experiencing at least once in a lifetime, especially since the preceding and following days offer rare highlights to behold! 

 

A Different Kind of New Year Celebration The unique day of silence marks the turn of the Saka calendar of western Indian origin, one among the many calendars assimilated by Indonesia’s diverse cultures, and among two jointly used in Bali. The Saka is 78 years behind the Gregorian calendar, and follows a lunar sequence. Nyepi follows after a new moon. Village meeting halls known as ‘banjar’ and streets feature papier-mâché effigies called ogoh-ogoh, built throughout the weeks leading up to the Saka New Year. Youth groups design and build their mythical figures with intricately shaped and tied bamboo framework before many layers of artwork. These artistic creations are offshoots of the celebration since its dawning in the early 80s, which stayed on to become an inseparable element in the island-wide celebration that is Nyepi Eve. 


Before the Silence Before ‘the silence’, highlight rituals essentially start three days prior to Nyepi, with colourful processions known as the Melasti pilgrimages. Pilgrims from various village temples all over Bali convey heirlooms on long walks towards the coastlines where elaborate purification ceremonies take place. It is one of the best times to capture on camera the iconic Balinese processions in motion, as parasols, banners and small effigies offer a cultural spectacle. Then on Saka New Year’s Eve, it is all blaring noise and merriment. Every Balinese household starts the evening with blessings at the family temple and continues with a ritual called the pengrupukan where each member participates in ‘chasing away’ malevolent forces, known as bhuta kala, from their compounds – hitting pots and pans or any other loud instruments along with a fiery bamboo torch. These ‘spirits’ are later manifested as the ogoh-ogoh to be paraded in the streets. As the street parades ensue, bamboo cannons and occasional firecrackers fill the air with flames and smoke. The Nyepi Eve parade usually starts at around 19:00 local time. 


When the Whole Island Shuts Down... However on Nyepi Day, complete calm enshrouds the island. The Balinese Hindus follow a ritual called the Catur Brata Penyepian, roughly the ‘Four Nyepi Prohibitions’. These include amati geni or ‘no fire’, amati lelungan or ‘no travel’, amati karya ‘no activity’, and amati lelanguan ‘no entertainment’. Some consider it a time for total relaxation and contemplation, for others, a chance for Mother Nature to ‘reboot’ herself after 364 days of human pestering. No lights are turned on at night – total darkness and seclusion goes along with this new moon island-wide, from 06:00 to 06:00. No motor vehicles whatsoever are allowed on the streets, except ambulances and police patrols and emergencies. As a hotel guest, you are confined to your hotel premises, but free to continue to enjoy the hotel facilities as usual. Traditional community watch patrols or pecalang enforce the rules of Nyepi, patrolling the streets by day and night in shifts. 


Ngembak Geni, the day after Nyepi On the day after Nyepi, referred to as 'Ngembak Geni', head down to the village of Sesetan in southern Denpasar for the omed-omedan, roughly known as the ‘festival of smooches’. This is a much-localized event, pertaining only to Sesetan's Banjar Kaja community. Youths take to the street as water is splashed and sprayed by villagers, and the highlight being two throngs of boys and girls, in a tug-of-war-like scene. Successive pairs in the middle are pushed to a smooch with each shove and push. Interested in experiencing these rare highlights in Bali? Don't worry if you missed out on this year's. Plan ahead for next year’s Saka New Year 1940, on March 17, 2018.