The Balinese Day of Silence, 17th March 2018
• Nyepi is New Year's Day in Bali - a day of silence and reflection. It falls on the day following the dark moon of the spring equinox. Nyepi is a day when the Balinese try to balance nature and their relationships with others. Traditionally they try to reflect on the year, their values, and clear any impediments to their progress. In contrast to westerners who open the New Year in revelry, the Balinese open their New Year in silence.
• Anything that might interfere with self-reflection on Nyepi is restricted. The main restrictions are not lighting fires, lights must be kept low and curtains pulled, no working, no traveling, no cooking and for some, no talking or eating at all . The degree to which they observe these guidelines varies with the individual.
• Externally though, 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 very few signs of activity are seen even inside homes. The only airport in Bali remains closed for the entire day. Traditional security men called Pecalang patrol the streets to ensure the prohibitions are being followed.
• Here at Devi’s Place in the rice-fields on the outskirts of Ubud, you can almost “hear” the silence on Nyepi. It is as though time has stopped still as nothing seems to change at all for the 12 long daylight hours. At night the island is dark. If a visitor from another planet stopped by for a spot of sight-seeing, they may well think Bali is uninhabited. It is like an abandoned island, a land out of time, for the year is over.
MELASTI (3 days before)
• Melasti is the cleaning of sacred items that help to concentrate the mind in order to become closer to God. The symbols of the Gods from all the village temples are taken to the river and ocean in long and colorful ceremonies. There, they are blessed by Varuna the God of the Ocean before being taken back home to their temples.
TAWUR KESANGA and PENGRUPUKAN (1 day before)
• On this day everyone makes an offering at every cross-road in the village. Crossroads are considered magically dangerous and are favorite haunt of the numerous and bothersome evil spirits which abound in Bali, collectively known as Bhutakala.
• This is the last day of the year and the ceremony is for the purification of the Earth. Tremendous offering and sacrifices are made throughout the island to both the Gods and ancestors and all the evil spirits which lurk about in the shadows. These offerings are intended the elevate the supernatural beings and cleanse nature and the earth in preparation of the New Year.
• All villages in Bali hold a large exorcism ceremony at the main village cross-road. Magnificent offerings are made to the gods and ancestors, as well, but the Bhutakala are particularly well fed at this time on sacrificed animals and other distasteful goodies. These guys cause disease, accidents and all manner of unpleasant effects. The idea is to get them all to accumulate in one place and then drive them off the island by power of the high priests who will be chanting their mantras and sprinkling holy the water everywhere. This cleansing ritual is critical to guarantee the prosperity of the New Year.
• The young Balinese men make Ogoh-ogoh - representations of the Bhutakala. These fantastic monsters are based on giants taken from classical Balinese lore and are made for carnival purposes. They typically have fangs, bulging eyes and scary hair and are illuminated by torches.
The real fun begins in the evening. The processions themselves are held all over Bali following sunset. Balinese gamelan music accompanies the procession. The crowds will grow and the fire crackers will go off. It is the noisiest day of the year. In the distance the throb of gamelans play wild rhythms and melodies used for demons and war.
Although Nyepi is just one day -
in true Balinese style there are other ceremonies and observances before and after.