A day dedicated to complete silence is the crowning point of the New Year celebrations in Bali. This celebration takes place across six days, and on the third day the whole of Bali Island literally comes to a standstill. During this time, Ngurah Rai airport in Despasar doesn’t receive any incoming flights, and no flight is allowed to leave the airport either! Despite these curiosities, Nyepi is one of the most exciting celebrations on the planet.
All the hotels are required to cover their windows and every shop must be closed. I mean every shop! All Balinese homes will have no light be it from candles or any other source of light. They will all be dark. All the roads will be clear. No people will be on the roads, no motorbikes, and no cars as well. The Nyepi day is such a special moment for not only the Balinese but also for everyone who comes as a visitor to Bali.
‘Nyepi’ is the name given to the day, and the name means to keep silent. The day falls annually after the appearance of the dark moon. Nyepi day is set a day for the Hindu community to connect more with their God Hyang Widi Wasa. They do this through fasting, prayer, and meditation. They also spend time looking internally to ensure that they are living with core virtues such as truth, generosity, love, patience, and kindness. This is an expansive ceremony that outdoes any other in the year.
During the six day celebrations, Balinese men and boys can be seen carrying scary creations, called ogoh-ogoh, of varying sizes. They do this as they walk along the streets towards the parade in their town with gamelan music and a lot of noise following them. This parade is famously known as the ogoh-ogoh parade in Indonesia. The ogo-ogoh parade takes place right across the island and goes all night, and is commonly called ‘Nyepi Eve’.
Nyepi day is marked as the third day in the 6-day festival. During this day, the whole island is seemingly closed. The roads are off limits for all people who are on foot as well as any type of motorized vehicle. Every type of shop is closed including groceries, boutiques, and other shops. You cannot access anything whether you are a tourist or a Balinese. Imagine even all the restaurants being closed! You cannot go to the beach. It is out of bounds for everyone. As a matter of fact, you have to stay indoors as the reason for the silence is the noise of the ogoh-ogoh parade scares the demons away, and they won’t be able to find Bali again if everything is silent. Local watchmen commonly called Nyepi Police or Pecalang are distributed to every corner of the island to ensure these rules are followed by locals and tourists alike.
If you are visiting Bali you are not restricted from watching these parades. In fact, you are encouraged to get involved and donate time, money, or materials to the youth group in the banjar you are staying in. You can also take pictures and videos as you experience a unique occurrence in your life. Your senses will be overwhelmed as you watch some of the scary creatures being burnt once the parades are over!
Nyepi is an incredible time to visit Bali. Partying all night to scare off demons while taking in the ogoh-ogoh parade, then sleeping all day and recharging the batteries, is a fantastic cultural experience that will live long in the memory!
Written by Jarrod Patridge from Upshift Tours