Every year, Hindus on the Indonesian island of Bali celebrate Nyepi, the Balinese New Year’s Day. Nyepi is ‘a day of silence’, which is reserved for self-reflection. 90 percent of the Balinese are Hindu, and they take Nyepi seriously, even Bali airport will be closed. No cars or residents are allowed to leave their properties, and anyone found engaging in such activity can be arrested. Hotel services are generally limited, as hotels have to make special arrangements for certain staff to sleep over so they can be present to work on Nyepi. While hotels can operate with electricity, the Balinese can not use it.
The days surrounding Nyepi are anything but silent – several rituals of offering and cleansing take place before and after New Year’s Day, to rid worshipers of past evils and bestow good fortune in the year ahead. Tradition maintains that villagers throughout Bali spend the weeks leading up to Nyepi making huge creatures of papier mache and fabric called ‘Ogoh-ogoh‘, which represents evil spirits. The main purpose of the making of Ogoh-ogoh is the purification of the natural environment of any spiritual pollutants emitted from the activities of living beings (especially humans).
On the day before Nyepi, the Ogoh-ogoh from villages are paraded through the town’s streets. Most main roads are closed off and thousands of people gather to watch the parade. Later on, the Ogoh-ogoh will be judged and the winning team rewarded with a large prize. Afterwards, they bring the Ogoh-ogoh back to their villages to be ceremoniously burned, symbolizing ridding the village of evil for the upcoming year.
Some people decide to get out of Bali on Nyepi and go to their hometown or neighbour islands like Java, Lombok or the Gili islands, which are incredibly busy during Nyepi. Others decide to use the day to relax and do some introspection of their own lives. For people who’d like to stay in Bali during Nyepi, these are some tips for you:
- Be self sufficient
As the act of starting a fire on this day is prohibited, some hotel kitchens only serve food that does not require cooking (such as sandwiches and salads). Check if your hotel will still be serving food or make sure you have enough stocked. After you have gotten the issue of sustenance sorted out, think about what you’ll be doing on Nyepi. Since you’re going to be stuck in your compound, you might want to get a new book, install some new games, get a bunch of DVDs, or perhaps play some board games with friends or family. Just be mindful about the noise you’re making.
- Enjoy savings with hotel deals
Many hotels in Bali offer special rates during Nyepi so if you’ve no choice but to visit during this period, be sure to exploit these attractive deals, most of which come in the form of three-day, two-night packages starting on the eve of the festival.
- Enjoy the celebrations before Nyepi
Various ceremonies and melasti rituals – pilgrimages to the sea to cleanse religious ornaments – take place across three days before Nyepi and avid photographers can seize this opportunity to capture the various spectacles.
- Embrace the silence
Well, if you can’t beat it, perhaps you might as well join it, as Nyepi is actually a good way to detox your mind and soul. In the evening, the true serene ambience of Nyepi filled the air and if you look out or open your window you will realize that Bali has never seemed so quiet, the sky never been so clear and you have never felt more at peace while on the island.