Shanti Travel > Nyepi, The Balinese New Year

Nyepi, The Balinese New Year

Masks in Bali
Masks in Bali

Nyepi, The Balinese New Year

It is 8 pm and there is complete silence. The streets are empty. In this district of Kuta, which is usually so livened up, a very different atmosphere reigns this evening. A ghost town, no lighting, no car, no scooter, no truck is in movement, no plane takes off or lands, the air space is closed. The whole island is quiet. It’s New Year day 1935; it was 10 months ago Bali celebrated Nyepi.

Festival of Nyepi – the day of silence

Nyepi is the most intriguing of all the festivals in Bali. The festival of Nyepi is also known as the New Year Saka. There is a gap of 78 years between the Gregorian calendar and Saka calendar and as the New Year day is celebrated on a full moon day, the date changes every year. Nyepi is a day of silence and meditation. It is forbidden to work and to go out. Some Balinese also keep fasts. For the tourists and travelers, it is forbidden to step out of their hotels. The airport of Denpasar and the air space are closed.

Two days before Nyepi, processions towards the ocean begin, known as Melasti. Villagers go on foot to the sea, lakes or other sources of water to purify relics from the temples. They are all dressed in white and sometimes they walk in hundreds on the path lining rice fields on sinuous roads and on the beaches of Bali. During these processions and ceremonies some Balinese go into a trance.

Pegrupukan- call to the Balinese devils

Pura Ulun Danu Temple
Pura Ulun Danu Temple

The day before Nyepi, called Pengrupukan, the ogoh-ogoh come out when the night falls. Ogoh-ogoh are big effigies of mythological creatures and of devils made of hand-painted paper-maché. They have big eyes, symbols of voyeurism, large stomachs, big canines and long nails, symbols of violence. The ogoh-ogoh parade is carried out in the streets of Bali with deafening thunder the day before the day of silence, carried by 20 to 30 men on horses of bamboo.

The drums rumble, cymbals resound, firecrackers burst and the Balinese stir in these deafening processions. The ogoh-ogoh finish their howling walk. This noise aims at attracting the devils to the streets of Bali.

There is no one. Because it’s Nyepi and everyone is home. The Devils are not going to hear anything because everyone keeps silent. They go and look over fences but will see nothing because all the lights are switched off, then they will leave without finding anything to eat and Bali stays safe for the coming year.

It seems on the day of Nyepi, even the animals are silent. Cocks stop crowing and the dogs do not bark. When a man sneezes, Bali shivers. There is no more beautiful ode in the life than to give back the voice to nature. The leaves seem cherished by the wind, the water streams run up to the sea and nature’s perfumes seem heightened – the steams from the earth, the fragrances of flowers and marine sea sprays.

The silence reminds us of so many things. We sit, we meditate, we observe, we inhale, we listen, and we listen to ourselves.

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