Today, I thought we’d visit the island province of Bali … a beautiful place at any time, but I wanted to take you to the celebrations surrounding the holiday of Nyepi.
Every year, towards the end of March, the entire island of Bali in Indonesia, goes into standstill. Flights are grounded, shops remain closed, streets are deserted of traffic and pedestrians. All residents lock themselves up in their houses and switch off their lights. There is no talking, no music, no entertainment. Some even stop eating. This day is called Nyepi, the “Day of Silence”, where devout Hindus meditate and reflect.It isn’t the day itself that attracted my attention, but rather the days leading up to the sacred holiday that are, in sharp contrast to the ritual, full of activities. Villages and communities build large monster-like sculpture called ‘ogoh-ogoh’ that represent the bad spirits. The sculptures are made of bamboo frame wrapped with canvas and sometimes of Styrofoam. Some of them are 25 feet tall. These are paraded through the streets on the evening before Nyepi day, after which they are burned in the cemeteries. Many people also bang pots and pans raising a racket and burn dried coconut leaf torches to drive out the demons.On Nyepi day, everything goes into silence. The rules state no fires, no electrified lights, no working, no travelling and no engaging in revelry. This period lasts 24 hours from six in the morning. The next day, festivities start again, for it is the Balinese new year. Families and friends gather to ask forgiveness from one another, and perform religious rituals.Nyepi has a tendency to catch tourists off guard, for it unlike any other holiday the westerners might have experienced. The entire city shuts off for 24 hours, which means there are no restaurants and eateries open, no taxis or public transport, and no loitering on the streets. Hotels are usually exempted out of necessity, but guests are advised to keep noises low and lights dim. Sometimes hotels will draw their window curtains to cut off the lights.
Omed-omedan is celebrated the day after Nyepi. The festival takes place on one of the roads in the village of Banjar Kaja, Sesetan in southern Denpasar. The village community cheers on participating youths who get in line for the ritual – an affair of ‘push and pull’ between a team of girls and boys.Pre-arranged couples, usually in their late teens, line up to eventually be pushed towards their partner on the other side and to eventually ‘kiss’ and embrace for a very brief moment… before cheerfully being pulled apart again. The scene gets crazier as elders enjoy spraying and dousing the crowd with water.
I just love all the bright, festive colours, don’t you? I hope you’ve enjoyed learning a bit about Bali and Nyepi! Have a
wonderful … fun … happy … decent weekend!