The day of silence across Bali
The month of March brings Nyepi - the day of silence throughout the whole of Bali. In the Balinese lunar calendar (Saka), Nyepi is New Year's Day. It is a day wholly dedicated to rest, staying in, turning off the lights and keeping quiet for 24 hours. It is one of the biggest and most unique ceremonies of the year, where staying in and resting is enforced by law. It is practiced island-wide where the Balinese dedicate an entire day to introspection and spiritual cleansing. No businesses are open, no transport is allowed on the roads (except for emergency services) the airport even shuts down for 24 hours. Nyepi is a sacred day to give the island a break from 364 days of human activity, so Bali can replenish and recharge for the new year.
Nyepi is a 6-day long festival, the ‘silent’ day falls on day 3 and is the most important and sacred Hindu holiday in Bali. It is also a public holiday for the rest of Indonesia.
Nyepi Festival Format:
1st and 2nd Day – Melasti Pilgrim
Before ‘the silence’, highlight rituals essentially start with colorful processions. Pilgrims from various village temples all over Bali bring heirlooms on long walks towards the coastlines where elaborate purification ceremonies take place. It is one of the best times to capture the iconic Balinese processions in motion, as parasols, banners and small effigies offer a cultural spectacle.
Evening of 2nd Day - the night before Nyepi
The famous ogoh-ogoh parade takes place across the island. Large scary creatures depicting evil spirits and monsters are made as a village group effort for weeks leading up to the ogoh-ogoh parade. Balinese men and boys carry the large handmade creatures through the streets accompanied by gamelan music. There is an island-wide demonstration of the ogoh-ogoh monsters which are paraded and shaken to attract evil spirits from the island to the ogoh-ogohs. The ogoh-ogoh monsters are then destroyed or burnt at the end of the parade to get rid of the evil spirits and cleanse the island from evil in preparation for the new year. There are huge parades on streets throughout Bali, it is a unique and colorful spectacle to watch.
3rd Day – Nyepi
Starting from sunrise to sunrise on the following day, everyone across the island stays in their family compounds or hotels for the day of silence, the entire island is essentially "closed". During Nyepi, there are no cars on the street, no TV’s or loud music, no lamps or fires. To ensure that all the rules are obeyed, local watchmen called the Pecalang are deployed all over the island. This is the only place in the world where the government will shut down an airport for meditation and introspection! The roads and beaches are off limits to all types of motorized vehicles and people on foot. While indoors, the inhabitants must ensure that all audio devices are turned down to a minimum volume. As the day draws to an end and the sun sets, curtains need to be drawn shut, with minimum light being used. If an airplane was to fly over Bali, the island would not be seen!
4th Day - Yoga/Brata Ritual
This day begins at approximately 6:00 a.m after the day of silence and continues to 6:00 a.m the next day. All activities go back to normal - the airport is open and all businesses are open again.
5th Day - Ngembak Geni
Ngembak Geni is for all Balinese Hindus to forgive each other and to welcome the new days to come. Families and friends gather to ask forgiveness from one another and certain religious rituals are performed together.
6th Day - Dharma Shanti Rituals
For the final rituals to close the Nyepi festival, Dharma Shanti takes place after all the Nyepi rituals are finished.
Upcoming Nyepi dates:
Nyepi 2019: March 7th (Balinese Saka year 1941)
Nyepi 2020: March 25th (Balinese Saka year 1942)
While the Balinese follow the Gregorian calendar for business and government purposes, holy days are calculated on the traditional lunar (Saka) calendar, so the date changes each year. The Balinese have countless festivals and ceremonies year-round, but Nyepi is a particularly interesting time to visit – a new year unlike any other.