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.
For more information, please click : Nyepi: Bali’s New Year's Day of Cemplete Silence
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