If you had no idea that Bali celebrates the New Year holiday in the month of March, don’t worry, neither do most people. We were in Kuta Beach-Bali as preparations for this huge celebration were under way, and I’ am so glad that we had the opportunity to celebrate this holiday with the locals and tourists. It is unlike any other celebration in the world. It’s a unique, creative, and exciting experience to be a part of.
Nyepi (Day of Silence) is a highly regarded holiday in the Hindu religion. The new year, which occurs in the month of March on different days according to the Saka calendar year; otherwise known as the Hindu calendar, is a highly anticipated day for the Balinese people as most of the population here practices Balinese Hinduism. This year Nyepi occurred on March 28th.
In the days leading up to Nyepi, the locals are seen preparing for the Ngerupuk parade which occurs on the eve of Nyepi. Locals and villagers spend weeks to months preparing for the parade to construct the most unique and gigantic statues of mythical demons called Ogoh-Ogoh’s, inspired by Hindu beliefs.
The Ogoh-Ogohs are made using iron, styrofoam, bamboo, cork, paint etc. They are huge, sometimes stories high. Typically, each village will work together to build one Ogoh-Ogoh that represents their community. Groups of children can also be seen building these mythical creatures together.
The Ogoh-Ogoh’s are paraded by locals wearing traditional ceremonial clothing through the villages on the eve of Nyepi with loud music and public speakers. So why the big parade of monsters? The Ogoh-Ogoh’s symbolize the cleansing of the environment from evil spirits and elements from all living beings so that the people may enter the new year purified and cleansed.
According to tradition, once the Ogoh-Ogoh’s are paraded through the villages they are engulfed in flames and burned. However, we were told by security and police that the burning of Ogoh-Ogoh’s was not going to happen this year due to safety concerns. While we were pretty bummed about not getting the burning man version of Ogoh-Ohoh’s, the celebration was still spectacular. After the parade, everyone including locals and tourists can be seen drinking, partying, and dancing in the streets.
Nyepi “Day of Silence”
The following morning, Nyepi begins. The entire island shuts down from 06:00-06:00. No one, one other than emergency vehicles are allowed to be outside or on the streets. Unless it’s a medical emergency, everyone stays inside the home or hotel on Nyepi. This rule applies to everyone in Bali, including tourists. Even the airport shuts completely down. The local security officers known as Pecalang work in coordination with the police force to ensure that the roads are void of any traffic or people. They take it very seriously, and you won’t get away with roaming the empty streets on Nyepi day.
There are four prohibitions that are followed by the Balinese people on Nyepi day.
- Amati Geni: No light, no fire, or electricity
- Amati Karya: No physical labor
- Amati Lelunganan: No movement or traveling
- Amati Lelanguan: Fasting and no entertainment or pleasure
Nyepi “Day of Silence” is strictly reserved as a time for self-reflection, fasting, and meditation to enter the new year clean and purified. As a tourist or non-practicing Hindu, you are not expected to follow the four prohibitions listed above. However, you are expected to remain in your homes or hotels until 06:00 of the next day. Locals and our Air BnB hosts were super helpful in letting us know when and how to prepare for Nyepi. It was a great time to relax and participate in the act of just resting inside, decompressing, and even using it as a time for self-reflection. After all, how often are you forced to stay in and relax? After that, normal activities resumed and the Bali streets are quickly back to their lively nature.
I hope you enjoyed photos of the Bali New Year!
Love, Nurse Vanessa