Destinations in Indonesia
Nyepi: Bali’s New Year’s Day of Complete Silence
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Every culture and religion in the world has its own way to define and celebrate the coming of the new year. While the Chinese have the Imlek celebration, the Muslims celebrate the first of Muharram, and the world in general celebrates the first of January, the Hindus of Bali welcome the New Year based on the traditional Saka Calendar with the ritual of Nyepi. This year, Nyepi , the day of complete silence and meditation , takes place on 12th March 2013.
Travellers to Bali around this date please note : On this day, the entire island of Bali will come to a complete standstill. To allow all to follow the prescribed ritual, all traffic all over Bali will be stopped. No planes will land or take off for 24 hours. All shops are closed. No one is allowed on the beach or on the streets. There will be local watchmen known as pecalang to ascertain that this rule is obeyed. At night, all lights will have to be turned off. Hotels will close all curtains that no ray of light shines to the outside. All sound and music indoors should be held to its lowest volume.
The sudden silence comes after the eve of noisy festivities on the beaches of Kuta, Sanur, Nusa Dua, Seminyak and others with parades of giant puppets called “ogoh-ogoh” accompanied by clanging gongs and other percussion instruments. At the end of the festival the ogoh-ogoh are lit and are totally engulfed in flames.
For non-Balinese who happen to be in Bali for the first time on Nyepi day , it is an extraordinary experience indeed to find a whole island completely silent as if deserted , enveloped in an atmosphere of complete tranquility and peace.
For, contrary to other cultures that celebrate New Year with vivacious festivities, the pinnacle of Balinese New Year is a day of complete Silence. Hence the name Nyepi, meaning “to keep silent” in the local language, which falls on the day following the dark moon of the spring equinox. Nyepi is a day fully dedicated to connect oneself more closely with God (Hyang Widi Wasa) through prayers and at the same time as a day of self introspection to decide on values, such as humanity, love, patience, kindness, and others, that should be kept forever.
As a day reserved for self-reflection anything that might interfere with that purpose is strictly prohibited. Nyepi mandates a day of absolute quiet, based on the four precepts of Catur Brata:
• Amati Geni: Prohibiting the lighting of fires, the use of lighting or satisfying pleasurable human appetites.
• Amati Karya: Prohibiting all forms of physical work other than those dedicated to spiritual cleansing and renewal.
• Amati Lelungan: Prohibiting movement or travel; requiring people to stay within their homes.
• Amati Lelangunan: Prohibiting all forms of entertainment, recreations or general merrymaking.
Although Nyepi is primarily a Hindu holiday, non-Hindu residents of Bali observe the day of silence as well, out of respect for their fellow citizens. Even tourists are not exempt; although free to do as they wish inside their hotels, no one is allowed on the beaches or streets, and the airport remains closed for the entire day. The only exceptions granted are for emergency vehicles carrying those with life-threatening conditions and women about to give birth.
Building up to the Nyepi Day are a series of rituals conducted in virtually every part of the island, as follows:
Melasti (Melis or Mekiis)
The ritual is performed 3-4 days beforehand. It is dedicated to Sanghyang Widhi Wasa. The ritual is performed in the Pura (Balinese temple) near the sea (Pura Segara) and is meant to purify effigies, Pratima, and Pralingga (sacred objects) belonging to the temples, and also to acquire sacred water from the sea. A similar ritual is also performed at the Balekambang Beach on the southern coast of Malang, East Java, in the ritual of Jalani Dhipuja.
Tawur Kesanga and Caru (Sacrifice rites before Nyepi Day)
Tawur Kesanga and Caru are sacrifice rituals that take place one day before the Nyepi Day. Different levels of sacrifice are held at villages, districts, regencies and provinces by sacrificing chicken, ducks, pigs, goats, up to cows or bulls. There are also various plants and crops used as part of the offerings. Aside from reminding the Balinese about the importance of their cattle and crops, the ritual is also meant to appease Batara Kala with the Pecaruan offering.
At sunset at 5 or 6 pm the ritual of Pengrupukan will take place. This is the time when Balinese parade the streets around their village by holding fire torches and passionately play the kulkul (traditional bamboo bell). The parade will also be followed by a procession of Ogoh-ogoh, Balinese distinct giant paper puppets. The Ogoh-ogoh depict the character of Bhuta or evil spirit. After the procession, the Ogoh-ogoh will be put to flame in the main ritual of Ngrupuk. The burning of the ogoh-ogoh symbolizes the eradication of any evil influences in life.
The day after Nyepi, is called Ngembak Geni. This is when where Balinese Hindus visit families, neighbours, and relatives to exchange forgiveness –similar to the Muslim’s Ied Al Fitri custom in Indonesia. They will also conduct the Dharma Canthi by reciting Sloka, Kekidung, and other religious scriptures.
Although the series of rituals take place virtually over the entire island, it is best to be around the beach either in Kuta, Seminyak, Nusa Dua, Sanur and other popular beaches to witness the Melasti procession. Most likely each village will make at least one Ogoh-ogoh, the giant doll, which is quite spectacular. In some main towns like Sanur, Kuta, Denpasar, Ubud and others, there are usually held contests for the best Ogoh-Ogoh.
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