What’s the Meaning Behind Nyepi?
Bali has a completely unique way of celebrating the new year, which is very different from how many other cultures around the world do it. The beginning of the "Caka'' year — the Balinese New Year — is celebrated for six days by Hindu Balinese. The culmination of six days' celebration is dedicated to complete silence, which is known as Nyepi. A humble and mindful moment to devote oneself to a deeper relationship with God (Hyang Widi Wasa) through fasting, prayer and meditation.
The aim of Nyepi is to cleanse, reflect, let go and accept. For a whole year, we are preoccupied with living our lives, performing our worldly duties, and fulfilling our responsibilities. Before embarking on a new beginning, the Balinese feel compelled to cleanse both the island as the macrocosm and themselves as the microcosm.
This act of cleansing then gives us the opportunity to evaluate personal values that we would bring to a new beginning. Through this sacred celebration of New Year, the balinese believe that we have to empty our glass to start the new day. Nyepi gives us a clear head to reflect on what we've done in the past year and see how we move forward in a life with both good and bad karma.
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What are the Rules of Nyepi?
Nyepi is strictly designated for reflection, and everything that could interfere with that intention is strictly forbidden. Nyepi prepares a day of complete silence when everything begins anew, in accordance with the four teachings of the Catur Brata:
Amati Geni: The fire. Amati Geni is about self control. How you manage yourself from your anger, ego and desire. For this reason, we are not allowed to use lights during the day or night, to cook, to light a fire, to eat and to drink.
It is not just about the fire in the exterior world, but also how you manage the fire within you in order to neutralize yourself and accept things. As the fire is put out, one may be able to see things more clearly.
Amati Karya: You are not allowed to work. It’s the day to relinquish. You have worked so physically and spiritually hard. This is the time to release your attachments and open your heart for the path that lies ahead.
Amati Lelunganan: You’re not allowed to travel. You’re not allowed to go anywhere outside your living space.
Amati Lelanguan: It prohibits celebration, self-entertainment, and general enjoyment.
Limit yourself and use those limitations as a challenge and starting point for the new freedom, which is the day after Nyepi–Ngembak Geni, when you’re allowed to open the light and fire.
Fire is a symbol of creation and purification.
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Should everyone observe Nyepi, including foreigners?
Absolutely, everyone must observe the Nyepi guidelines, which include staying indoors with no noise or visible light. However, you are entitled to freely move about your accommodation, provided that noise and light are kept to an absolute minimum. You won't be completely in the dark if you're staying in a hotel, as lights are often left on but dimmed at night; you'll only need to close your curtains.
What happens throughout Nyepi?
The night before: Ngrupuk Parade
The Ogoh-Ogoh Parade in Bali is an incredible showcase of Balinese art and culture. Ngrupuk Parade is a 'Pre-Nyepi' celebration where these massive demonic figurines are carried and presented in a ritualistic manner.
The bhuta kala (lesser demonic spirits), the leyak (black magic) witches, and other eerie elements of local tradition all serve as inspiration for the spectral forms assumed by Ogoh-Ogoh. As a result, they tend to be horrifying and disgusting, if not occasionally humorous.
The ogoh-ogoh statues are meant to clean the streets of evil and negative forces, which are said to gather at the main intersections of villages. This was done in a folk ritual called Ngerupuk, which was a kind of exorcism and used noise and torches in the past. Around the 1980s, this changed, and it became a tradition to make and show off these ogoh-ogoh.
The plans for making these effigies, which range in height from 2m to a huge 12m, are made months in advance. They are often made by the young people in the Banjar village, and making them has become a kind of team effort. After putting together a frame, papier mache and fabrics are put on top of it, and then it is carefully painted. In more recent versions, these demons are brought to life with the help of smoke machines, rotating discs, and speakers. They are truly masterpieces.
The eve of Nyepi calls these devils out of their village caves after months of teamwork, creativity, and late nights. Each Banjar reveals its creation to the world on a particular street.
The Ngrupuk parade then begins. The banjars literally take their ogoh-ogoh, supported by bamboo rafts, to the crossroads in a procession of gamelan, dancers, and torches.
This tall devil swiveled counterclockwise and shook to the tunes of song and story. Its name is derived from the Balinese word ogah-ogah, which means to shake, as its rocking is believed to frighten away evil spirits.
With the streets cleansed by the Ngrupuk procession, any evil forces that return the next day during Nyepi will believe that Bali has been abandoned, as no sounds can be heard anywhere on the island. Consequently, these demons depart, providing a fresh start to the New Saka Year.
The day of: Nyepi
The entire island is "closed," including the airport, as no incoming or leaving flights are permitted. There is a 24-hour curfew on the highways, and everyone is expected to remain indoors. Beaches are off-limits, and all restaurants, grocery stores, and other retailers will be closed because no one should be out and about. Despite the fact that Nyepi is predominantly a Hindu holiday, non-Hindu Bali residents and visitors observe the day of silence out of respect for their Hindu neighbors.
To guarantee that all rules are followed, Pecalang (Nyepi Police) guards are stationed throughout the entire island, patrolling their particular regions. The only exceptions will be life-threatening conditions and laboring mothers, since hospitals will remain open.
The most important thing about the rules is how you can use them to manage and improve yourself. Not because the village does not allow you to do so. On the day of silence, surrender and let go. Life is already so crowded and full of noise.
“You have to empty your glass to start a new day”
The day after: Ngembak Geni
The day after Nyepi which is called Ngembak Geni, people are out and about again very quickly. After being inside for 24 hours, families and friends get together to talk and ask for forgiveness from each other. This helps them let go of the past. Different places celebrate Ngembak Geni in different ways. It is a day to be happy and spend the day outside.
Traditionally, Ngembak Geni starts by invoking Hyang Widhi Wasa with prayers (God Almighty). This is done so that Hyang Widhi Wasa, despite the darkness of the past, gives a clear path and begins the new year with an open heart.
Receive a Blessings of a New Day
With a grateful heart, we wish our Bali Spirit Family & Community a peaceful day of Silence. Rahajeng Rahina Nyepi Caka 1945. May Nyepi purify us and nature from the previous year’s wrongdoings and bad energies, give us a humble and mindful moment to reflect, let go and move forward to better days.
Lokah samastah sukinho bhavantu—may all beings everywhere be happy and free