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2012-03-23

Nyepi in Bali - a day of silence to mark the new year


Right now in this moment, all over Bali it's completely dark and peaceful. Since it's Nyepi and the new year, everyone is in "house arrest". No one is allowed to walk on the streets or beaches from 06.00 AM this morning and for 24 hours thereafter, to make sure the evil spirits don't see anyone in Bali, and leave the island alone for the next year.


The only people outside are the Pecalang, traditional security men from the banjars who patrol the streets and beaches to ensure the prohibitions are being followed.


There are no lights (except in some of the bigger hotels), no music, no one is making any noise. You hear natural sounds you never noticed before - the sound of the ocean waves, the crickets, the frogs, the rustling leaves, small trees moving with the wind.

Even the airport is closed, there is no traffic in Bali for 24 hours.


And even more amazing is that since Nyepi is on a Friday this year, the Balinese allowed the Muslim minority to go to the Friday prayer in the mosques. This shows how tolerant they truly are - even if the traffic and noise could make the evil spirits see that there are people in Bali, and thus ruin the whole point of Nyepi, they still let the Muslims attend Jumu'ah.


Yesterday, after over a week of rain, the weather gods blessed Bali with sun, and the Balinese could do their rituals to celebrate their new year (Isakawarsa). I saw a beautiful ceremony, a spiritual dance that symbolized the battle between good and evil, and the whole banjar articipated or cheered. (Hint: Good wins.) The dance ended the Ogoh-Ogoh parade of monsters, here's a video.


Another beautiful ritual that is part of Nyepi is Melasti, performed thee-four days before the silent day. On this day the Balinese purify the sacred objects from their temples, and acquire sacred water from the sea.



These are the rituals to be followed on Nyepi:
1. Amati Geni - no fire or light (including no electricity)
2. Amati Karya - no work
3. Amati Lelunganan - no travelling
4. Amati Lelanguan - fasting and no revelry

More info about this amazing day:
"Nyepi is very special and important to the Balinese, since this is the day that they have to fool all evil spirits that no-one is actually on Bali - hence the need for silence and darkness. If this can be achieved, then it is believed that the evil spirits will go looking elsewhere for their prey and leave the Bali island alone for another year. Police and security are on hand to make sure that everyone abides by this rule.

Nyepi also serves to remind the Balinese of the need for tolerance and understanding in their everyday life. In fact, Hinduism on Bali is unique because it is woven into and around the original Balinese animistic religion. The two now have become one for the Balinese - a true sign of tolerance and acceptance!

The silent day is part a series of celebrations to welcome the Caka New Year in the Balinese Hindu religion, and has been celebrated in Bali since the era of Majapahit. The essence of the feast of Nyepi is a self-introspection and reflection before the new year. For that a tranquil and quiet atmosphere is required to clear the mind and to ask the Creator that next year all the mistakes done in the existing year will not be repeated again in the coming New Year."
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