Nyepi in Bali 2017 – Balinese New Year

 In Travel
[nyepi in bali] If you are planning to visit Bali between 27 and 28th March 2017, be prepared for a different aspect of traditional Bali. Nyepi is Bali’s silent day. It is a day of abstinence, silence, and prayer. This is preceded by the festive Ogoh Ogoh.

This yearNyepi 2017 in Indonesia will begin at 06:00 a.m on Tuesday 28 March

and ends at 06:00 am on Wednesday 29 March

All times are in Central European Time.

Nyepi  in Bali 2017

I wrote this rendition of Nyepi Bali in 2016.  An experience worth recounting and sharing with anyone planning to visit Nyepi Bali in 2017.
 

Here is my story of Nyepi Bani 2016

Yesterday night, after toying with this Island of Bali for almost twenty years and avoiding these dates to travel,  I consciously allowed myself to be drawn into the traditions of Nyepi… And the Eve… The night of the Ogoh Ogoh. Nyepi translated in western language is New Year’s Day.  Nyepi is derived from the word lonely. Hence it is the silent day. However, the Traditional New Year’s Eve is a cacophony of celebrations. Earlier in the day. From as early as 3.00 am. The Balinese are organised by Banjars (council areas but in religious sectors) to do a 25 Kilometer procession of prayer leading to the beach and thanking the Gods of the Water for the previous year.
To avoid total  seizure of the Island these  many miles long processions which last for a couple of hours with thousands of people walking behind what I can only describe as altars and pedestals and which look like something out of Indiana jones and the temple of doom, all congregated in prayer, marching to the beats of traditional Balinese music by live clanking drums are organised on different hours.  This takes up the best part of the day… But as night approaches… The Island goes into a Frenzy over the Ogoh Ogoh. This is how Nyepi in Bali is celebrated.

The Traditional Ogoh Ogoh – The Night Before Nyepi in Bali.

ooogh smf Nyepi in Bali
Each village has Banjars, who organize their Ogoh Ogoh… How can I describe the Ogoh Ogoh?  Possibly the best description would be a cross between carnival revelry and Good Friday processions in staunchly catholic countries ( though ironically I cannot even tell the two apart sometimes ).  A black carnival is probably the aptest way to describe it.
 All villages hold a large exorcism ceremony at the main village cross road, the meeting place of demons. They usually make Ogoh-ogoh (the fantastic monsters or evil spirits or the Butha Kala made of bamboo) for carnival purposes. The Ogoh-ogoh monsters symbolize the evil spirits surrounding our environment which have to be got rid of from our lives. The carnivals themselves are held all over Bali following sunset. Bleganjur, Balinese gamelan music accompanies the procession. Some are giants taken from classical Balinese lore. All have fangs, bulging eyes, and scary hair and are illuminated by Christmas tree lights.
When Ogoh-ogoh is being played it is similar to a puppet show on a much larger scale. Everyone cheers, and claps.   As soon as all the Demons arrive at the intersection of the village square ( I am present on mine in Prerenan..) there is boisterous torch lighting. a frenzy of hyperactive kids, all from all the paraffin they have been inhaling from the torch lights they carry, dance and prance. Finally, they run to the village center and set fire to the Ogoh Ogoh monster.

Nyepi in Bali – Ogoh-Ogoh up in Flames

 The ugly monsters which would have required many weeks of preparation and imagination are burnt to cinders in huge bonfires. The reason behind the burning ritual is to exorcise all the evil from the Island.   Fireworks are set alight on the beaches, on the roads, and in the fields, with little or no attention to safety.  Only the heady delight of color and festive celebrations leading to the silence of Nyepi in Bali is given consideration.
It was explained to me that the reason behind the Ogoh-Ogoh night is to make an order by the harmonic relation between human being and the Gods. Hindus celebrating Ngerupuk, start to make all these noises and light burning torches and set fire to the Ogoh Ogoh in order to get the Bhuta Kala, evil spirits, out of our lives.
Despite the fact that the effigies of the evil spirits are very grotesque, once you are in tune with the Balinese psyche, it is a beautiful ritual. Notwithstanding the macabre scene of bloodied devils, the sheer delight, and wonder on the children’s faces, make this day an inspiration to life.
ugly monster in bali Nyepi in Bali

Photo credits to balidaily.wordpress.com

Today is Nyepi in Bali.

Whereas Westerners open the New Year in revelry, drink, and party,  in contrast, the Balinese open their New Year in silence. This is called Nyepi Day, the Balinese day of Silence, which falls on the day following the dark moon of the spring equinox, and opens a new year of the Saka Hindu era which began in 78 A.D. What happens in Nyepi in Bali?
As I stand outside in my terrace in this ink-black night, I hear no sound.  Not even dogs, that typically bark at anything make any noise.  There is no movement, and all is still. Ther is no moon that shines, it is a black moon. And certainly no sliver of light from any artificial source.  All the windows are blanked out with thick black carton to avoid any wisp of light that might escape from indoors.  I see a sky that defies darkness, sprinkled with diamonds of varying karats. It is eerie and magical and gives this Island of The Gods a new meaning.

What Happens during Nyepi in Bali?

Nyepi day itself during daylight has been a fairly normal one for me given that I live fairly remotely in the rice fields.  The only odd thing is the total silence.  I miss the chatter of the rice field workers. Every street is quiet. There is no-one doing any normal daily activities. There are no cars on the roads.  Every is indoors, going through the day in hushed voices.
There are usually Pecalangs (traditional Balinese security man) who control and check for street security. The Pecalangs main task is not only to control the security of the street but also to stop any activities that disturb Nyepi in Bali. No traffic is allowed.  No planes land in Bali in Nyepi.  There are no cars and no people to be seen anywhere. Light is kept to a minimum or not at all. You are only allowed to use lights if you have blocked all your windows. The radio or TV is turned down and, of course, no one works. Even love making, this ultimate activity of all leisure times, is not supposed to take place, nor even attempted. The whole day is simply filled with silence.  For those who are familiar with the Island and its chaotic traffic and buzzing life, it is a very sharp contrast to imagine.

What is the Meaning of Nyepi in Bali?

On Nyepi, the slate of the past year is wiped clean, in anticipation of the new one.  But more so superstitiously it is thought that tonight, the evil spirits roam the world. Therefore the reason for Nyepi in Bali is for the Evil Spirits to pass it by.   Having no sound and light and therefore attracting no attention, automatically implies that the evil spirits will simply fly over this blessed island without ever stopping in and invading it.
This is the black night of silence. A very powerful one.  The only time I came close to this stillness was on a sailing boat in the open sea. But even then, you could every now and then see another mast light, or fledging bobbing lights of lonely ships crossing the ocean. You are shrouded in your own mast lights and solitary cabin light. You hear the clanking of the masts.
On the other hand, Nyepi in Bali is pitch tar dark. Up to the point when you look up at the sky and the unending universe.  The sky is alive. There is much movement in the sky. Shooting stars zoom in crazy dances over my head. There are far more stars than I thought existed. Fire dancing sky. An animation beyond imagination.  A sheer sense of the immense. And in introspect. I cannot stop thinking how small we are. And how beautiful this world of diversity is.
The significance of Nyepi in Bali goes beyond tradition.  It is a strong and spiritual pull to make us look within us and take stock of life.

Planning to Visit Bali during Nyepi?

Make sure that you get your dates right.  Hotels do offer in-house entertainment, but not much is allowed outdoors on the actual Nyepi day.  Therefore, take time to make sure that your dates either coincide out of choice to experience the spirituality of the Silent Day in Bali. Or you may want to avoid the dates completely. On the other hand, if you want to enjoy the hedonism of the Ogoh-Ogoh, catch your vantage points early in the most important squares like Seminyak and Kuta.

Want to discover Bali better?

Check our favorite app – Forsquare. It always helps us find best spots as if we were locals.

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Showing 4 comments
  • Alex
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  • Tinder
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