So it’s come to my attention recently that there’s a public holiday in March in Bali called Nyepi. I didn’t really know too much about it except that no one is supposed to leave their house on the day and ALL the shops are closed. I asked some of the Jamu staff about Nyepi but I can’t seem to get a grasp on what they actually do to celebrate and the reasons behind it. Ningsi advised me to make sure I have food for a couple of days because no stores will be open, even the 24/7 ones. Ros says there is no motorcycles and cars about so the day is also devoted to quiet and reducing pollution. Kind of like Earth hour. But surely some work still must go on so there can’t be ZERO noise out there. What about the airport? I sought to do a bit of research to find out more.
Nyepi Day in Bali is a New Year celebration
It celebrates the Saka New Year as the Bali Day of Silence, an ultimately quietest day of the year, when all of the island’s inhabitants abide by a set of local rules, which brings all routine activities to a complete halt. It happens every year in mid March and it’s the most important sacred Hindu holiday in Bali. For the rest of Indonesia it’s just a general public holiday.
Nyepi is a day that the Hindu Balinese dedicate completely to connect more deeply with God (Hyang Widi Wasa) through prayer, fasting and meditation with an additional layer of introspection of the Self, to evaluate personal values such as love, truth, patience, kindness, and generosity.
So what happens?
Before ‘the silence’, rituals start three days prior to Nyepi
There are processions known as the Melasti pilgrimages where pilgrims from various village temples all over Bali go on long walks towards the coastlines and elaborate purification ceremonies take place. On the eve of Nyepi every Balinese household starts the evening with blessings at their family temple and continue with a ritual called the pengrupukan where each member chases away bad spirits from their home – hitting pots and pans or any other loud instruments along with a fiery bamboo torch. They would parade in the streets with bamboo cannons and firecrackers. This would all start around 7pm so there’s going to be road closures. Sounds a bit like Chinese new year eh?
Then the whole island shuts down..
The Balinese Hindus follow a ritual called the Catur Brata Penyepian – no fire, no travel, no activity, no entertainment. Some would consider it a time for relaxation and reflection, a chance for Mother nature to renew. No lights are allowed to be turned on at night so it’d be total darkness. No motor vehicles are allowed as well except ambulance and police patrols. Hotel guests are apparently made to follow these rituals too but they’re ‘free to enjoy the hotel facilities’. How are they to do that will all electricity off? :/ I guess it’s dining in the dark, bathing in the dark!
The day after Nyepi there’s a ‘festival of smooches’
A little strange? The day after Nyepi is called Ngembak Geni and apparently in a village in the South Denpasar, youths go out on the streets where a tug-of-war like game goes on between boys and girls. The successive pairs in the middle are pushed to a smooch with each shove and push and buckets of water are poured on them. What a weird ‘ritual’ following a day of peace…
Other facts I just learned about Nyepi
- Here’s how the 6 day celebration goes:
Sa, 25th Mar – Melasti | Nyepi festivities start, Sacred temple objects are being carried to the sea for blessing and purification
Mo, 27th Mar – Nyepi Eve | Ogoh Ogoh Parades all over the island starting late afternoon, till late at night.
Tue, 28th Mar – Nyepi Day – Day of Silence – complete 24h shutdown of the island beginning 6 am, including airport!
Wed, 29th Mar – 6.am life goes back to (almost) normal, temple ceremonies and celebrations everywhere. Meditation and reflection.
- It’s also supposed to be a day where Balinese fast. But Ros said not everyone does this as they can’t ‘not eat’ haha.
- On the actual day of Nyepi the Beach is prohibited. Basically anything other than being indoors is restricted.
- As the day ends and the sun sets, the curtains have to be drawn shut, with minimum light being used in ones living quarter. – Oh good, so I can at least use my laptop and have a shower!
- The airport is closed on Nyepi day too! – If an airplane was to fly over Bali, the Island would not be seen – How can they CLOSE an airport! Surely there are international routes operating all the time. Hm.. well I guess if this is a yearly thing it must already be accounted for in flight routes and dates for bali.
Nyepi seems like a huge thing. Shutting down the island, having to stock up on food – it’s like a lock down and everyone has to stay in doors and turn off the lights in prep for a world epidemic event. I feel like I might be fined or imprisoned for stepping foot outside the house haha. I shall report back in two weeks about how it all went.