Balinese New Year De-mystified, or Why I’m Extending My Stay

monkey-prowling-hotel-grounds-at-sunset-in-bali
A monkey prowls the ground of a beach front resort at sunrise. Photo Credit: Accidental Travel Writer.

Balinese Adventure Part 36

Michael Taylor’s Balinese adventure is supposed to end today. Management at the L Hotel Seminyak suggest he extend his stay 4 days so he can observe Ogoh Ogoh and experience Balinese New Year, a.k.a. the Day of Silence.

This post was originally published in 2014. I am republishing it today in celebration of Balinese Silent Day. Please note that Nyepi, as it is known in Bali, falls on a different day each year because it is calculated on the Balinese Calendar.

Everything in Bali comes to a halt on  31 March, the first day of the Balinese New Year, which is known locally as Nyepi. It is the holiest day on the Balinese Caka calendar, marking the end of the old year and the beginning of the new year.

According to Hindu belief, demons and evil spirits visit Bali on the first day of the New Year. If they find the island silent, they will think that it is uninhabited and leave it undisturbed for another year.

Nyepi should therefore be a day of complete silence. There should be no noise, no traffic, and no fires. All lights should be turned off, turning it into a day of complete stillness in the physical and spiritual worlds.

A Day to Reflect

Hindus in Bali spend Nyepi meditating, fasting, and reflecting on the past year’s events.

They believe the law concerning Nyepi is Catur Brata Penyepian (the 4 ascetic practices), which are Amati Geni (no fire, which is both literal and symbolic of mental and physical obstacles), Amati Karya (no activities, a precondition to meditation), Amati Lelungaan (no going out of the house or compound, and Amati Lelanguan (no entertainment).

Street lights are not be turned on. Even Denpasar International Airport is shut down, with flights neither landing nor taking off for 24 hours.

Hotels are granted an exemption, but travelers staying at hotels should not venture out of the confines of the property. All exterior lighting is turned off, and interior lighting should be kept to a minimum. Night curtains must be kept drawn.

Saturday 29 March 2014

The Purification Ceremony, known as Melasti, will be held on Saturday 29 March 2014. On this day, one of the most important days of the year in Bali, devotees will head to the beach to ritually cleanse themselves and some of their objects.

Beaches will be filled with flowers, and prayers will fill the air.  This is a solemn occasion so tourists should be respectful and view the ceremony from a distance.

New Year’s Eve 30 March 2014

The day before Nyepi falls on the darkest night of the new moon. During these solemn, powerful hours, priests throughout Bali will perform a Tawur Agung, which involves praying and ritually sacrificing a variety of animals to appease the demons and honour the gods.

The purpose of this ceremony is to bring the conflicting powers of good and evil into harmony. I’ve heard rumours that dogs are sometimes sacrificed. Not sure if they’re true, but pets should definitely be kept indoors!

On the same day, devotees throughout Bali will carry  ‘Ogoh Ogoh’, which are giant puppets of a fearful appearance. They are meant to frighten away and confuse evil spirits and the negative forces of the underworld, which are an integral part of Balinese Hinduism.

Several drivers have told me that Kuta – despite its ‘touristy reputation’ – is the best spot to view Ogoh Ogoh, followed by Denpasar, the provincial capital, and Sanur.

Tuesday 1 April 2014

The second day of the New Year, a.k.a. Ngembak Geni, is a day for Hindu devotees to do Ima Krama/Dharma Santi., which entails visiting and apologizing to one another.

On this day, markets called Pasar Majelangu will be held along Kuta Beach in Southern Bali. Many shops and restaurants will remain closed although some will open in the afternoon. 

Gratitude

I would like to express my sincerest thanks to L Hotel Seminyak for extending an invitation for me to spend an additional 4 nights at the hotel so that I can witness the processions of Ogoh Ogoh and experience the Balinese Day of Silence before returning to Hong KongMichael Taylor, Publisher, the Accidental Travel Writer.

Where

L Hotel Seminyak, 8L Jalan Petitenget Seminyak, Badung, Bali, Indonesia. Telephone: (0361) 894 7898. 

 

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