On March 12, 2013, the Hindu people of Bali will be celebrating their Saka calendar’s New Year with the ritual known as Nyepi.
People recognize Nyepi as a day of silence – an occasion “celebrated” by staying at home doing literally nothing.
During this day, Bali will be in a state of total shutdown and the island will be void of its usual daily noise. The streets of Bali will be nearly empty save for the patrolling pecalang, who are the guardians of religious events. Even the airport and harbor will be closed to traffic. Only emergency units such as hospitals and fire stations will operate as usual.
Visiting Bali during Nyepi might seem like a bad idea with all the prohibitions that apply not only to the Hindu Balinese but also for everyone else in the island. Tourists are advised to stay inside their room during Nyepi and keep noise to a minimum.
But, aside from the appointed day of silence, Nyepi offers a week-long event rich in rituals and a distinctive air of festivity.
The ritual of Melasti is made a few days before Nyepi as a time of purification.
Around three days before Nyepi, people will flock to the sea or lake, bringing sacred items from the temples and household altars to be washed. During Melasti you can see parades of people dressed up in their praying attire near beaches or other large bodies of water.
The day before Nyepi (Mar. 11, 2013)
Every year, Bali becomes louder on the day before Nyepi, and this is precisely when you can experience one of the most exciting cultural events the island has to offer.
On this day, the people in Bali will conduct the Buta Yadnya ritual, which is a ceremony for purification from all the bad things in life.
This ceremony is followed by Pengerupukan, to scare off evil spirits by several measures, including making noises as loud as possible and parading giant papier-mache figures called Ogoh-ogoh.
The parade will be held in most major streets in Bali, especially in Denpasar, where an Ogoh-ogoh competition will be held.
Nyepi (Mar. 12, 2013)
The core principles of Nyepi are summed up in these four verses:
- Amati Geni, means not creating a fire (including cooking and electricity)
- Amati Karya, means not producing or working on anything
- Amati Lelunganan, means not traveling
- Amati Lelanguan, means not consuming anything and no leisurely activities.
This means that the Hindu people in Bali will stay at home without any light to exercise the trials of self-control.
The next day after Nyepi, people spend the day praying and visiting their neighbors and family to forgive each other.
Things to do for Tourists
The participation of tourists in Nyepi is mandatory, and here are the things that you are advised to do and not to do:
- Do not wander outside your domain, unless it is a matter of emergency
Walking out to the balcony or around the area of your hotel is fine. But, if you go on to the main street then you will be politely asked by the Pecalang to return.
- Do keep the light in your room at minimum even though hotels usually provide extra layers on their window
Nyepi lasts all the way into the night so creating a bright light when the sun sets will be a disturbance for the neighborhood.
- Do stock some food, unless you are staying at a hotel with an operating restaurant
Hotels and resorts usually say that they have Nyepi packages to inform patrons that their facility will be operating as normal albeit with some restrictions. Nusa Dua Beach Hotel, for example, will still open their complimentary amenities including the sauna, steam, Jacuzzi, gym, and all the sport centers.
- Do find more information about the whole Nyepi ritual
There are many interesting things happening around the island such as Melasti ritual and the Ogoh-ogoh parade during the Pengerupukan. Unless you plan to do the ritual too, Nyepi in Bali for non-Hindu people means that you can still do plenty of other things such as reading a book, enjoying a meal or even playing with your computer.
- Do not overdo your cooking
Avoid cooking meals with strong odors as it will be disturbing. Do your shopping days before Nyepi, since the market will be crowded if you go on the day before Nyepi.
- Do refrain from complaining
If you did not anticipate Nyepi in your travel plan and find yourself stuck in Bali during Nyepi, please keep your temper down and avoid any negative behavior. Nyepi is mandatory for everybody in Bali and is enforced by perda (bylaw). Complaining on social media won’t help your cause either, and will only invite negative responses.
- Do not forget to charge the day before
Although electricity stays on in most places during Nyepi, some areas do cut off their power so its best to charge all your gadgets beforehand.
- Do note that Nyepi is not a recreational event
Albeit having some interesting rituals being held during the event, Nyepi is a sacred religious process that calls for respect.
Read also: 10 green things to do in Bali (part 1)