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Nyepi: Bali’s Day of Silence

Every year, towards the end of March, the entire island of Bali in Indonesia, goes into standstill. Flights are grounded, shops remain closed, streets are deserted of traffic and pedestrian. All residents lock themselves up in their houses and switch off their lights. There is no talking, no music, no entertainment. Some even stop eating. This day is called Nyepi, the “day of silence”, where devout Hindus meditate and reflect.

Nyepi ‘ogoh-ogoh’

Balinese Hindu devotees carry an Ogoh-ogoh effigy during a parade. Photo: Dhimas Adi Satria/Shutterstock.com

The days leading up to sacred holiday are, in sharp contrast to the ritual, full of activities. Villages and communities build large monster-like sculpture called ‘ogoh-ogoh’ that represent the bad spirits. The sculptures are made of bamboo frame wrapped with canvas and sometimes of Styrofoam. Some of them are 25 feet tall. These are paraded through the streets on the evening before Nyepi day, after which they are burned in the cemeteries. Many people also bang pots and pans raising a racket and burn dried coconut leaf torches to drive out the demons.

On Nyepi day, everything goes into silence. The rules state no fires, no electrified lights, no working, no travelling and no engaging in revelry. This period lasts 24 hours from six in the morning. The next day, festivities start again, for it is the Balinese new year. Families and friends gather to ask forgiveness from one another, and perform religious rituals.

Nyepi

A family praying together on the beach before Nyepi. Photo: Sudarsani Ida Ayu Putu/Shutterstock.com

Nyepi has a tendency to catch tourists off guard, for it unlike any other holiday the westerners might have experienced. The entire city shuts off for 24 hours, which means there are no restaurants and eateries open, no taxis or public transport, and no loitering on the streets. Hotels are usually exempted out of necessity, but guests are advised to keep noises low and lights dim. Sometimes hotels will draw their window curtains to cut off the lights.

Nyepi is actually a great time to experience real silence, to deprive oneself of this constant sensory stimulus. You get to take the day off from everything, go swimming in the pool, if you are in a hotel, or just relax and read a book.

Nyepi ‘ogoh-ogoh’

Photo: Denis Moskvinov/Shutterstock.com

Nyepi ‘ogoh-ogoh’

Photo: crbellette/Shutterstock.com

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