Balinese 3rd New Year- Nyepi
Not many citizens of the world or any other region get to have 3 new year celebrations in the span of one year. This is one of the best privileges that Balinese have, besides all the stunning collection of seascapes landscapes, rich cultures and traditions, luxury resorts and many more. The 3 major celebrations in Bali are the Western New Year, Chinese New Year and the famous Nyepi celebration. It is a day of complete silence and solitude for the entire island, but not before having all the hustle and bustle on the new year’s eve a day prior. This celebration focuses on devil purification or exorcism.
Usually falls on the month of March based on Balinese Saka calendar, this date coincides with the lunar phase or the “new” Moon phase. It is also dubbed as “Dead Moon” by the Balinese. Notice how it is called both new and Dead, which is classic disparity example set by the Balinese philosophy which is the balance of the good and the bad energies.
The Balinese culture consists of numerous traditions of rituals and ceremonies that are dedicated to balance between the white and black or positive and negative. To them, there must always be an opposing power to cleanse any unwanted incidents. In tribute to that, Balinese will dress up and celebrate the special New Year Day of Nyepi. But unlike the usual prep which includes getting clean and dressing up, the Balinese will prepare their inside rather than on their outer appearance.
Melasti: Image Courtesy of Bram Vera Family
Just like most ancient traditions, Balinese will use internal purification methods that involve meditation and fasting. This is also the reason why Nyepi is also called “ Day of introspection”. But in order to have an internal purification, Balinese also perform another type of purification, which is done a day before Nyepi. So overall, the purification method is a two step process.
The first step, which is external cleansing will include the Melasti ceremonies at the beaches and the parade of festive yet boisterous Ogoh- ogoh. This tradition is extraordinary and is definitely one of the most look forward events for travellers everywhere. The second step, is the Nyepi day itself which involves reflection and meditating on a quiet island. This will result in a total shutdown as a respect and a way to adverse the loudness a day before.
Both Ogoh-ogoh and Nyepi are fascinating and unique cultures that can only be found in Bali. Much to the fascination of many people, Ogoh- ogoh was a recent cultural addition that only started in the 80’s. Balinese sees it as a good opportunity to motivate the youths to contribute something constructive in the preparation for the upcoming New Year, thus the Ogoh- ogoh was born.
Image Courtesy of Matthew Spong
Image Courtesy of Audrey PictAddict
Indeed, the youths who participate in the event are enthusiastic bunch of youngsters who will diligently build these monster-like statues with height no less than 5 metres each. With their scary looks, angry colors and flashy teeth, Ogoh- ogoh represents the negative sides of living things. Inspired by the local demon, these nightmarish creatures have to be approved in terms of looks by Balinese Hindu authorities. This is to ensure that the making is accurate to the symbolical demons in the history, and to avoid other cartoonish characters to make their ways to this prestigious parade.
A few days before, these creatures can be seen by the local as the countdown to the big day begins. During the final phase of completion, they will inhabit the Banjars ( or local community centers) looking festive and creative all thanks to the dedication and hard work from their creators. Many articles quoted that the main material in the making is by papier-mâché component. However, a large part of Ogoh- ogoh is also made from styrofoam which makes burning process a messy occasion. Fortunately, some Banjars now are starting to promote the use of organic materials such as bamboo and grass etc. This way, the true Balinese philosophy that respect the nature can be carried out completely and correctly.
Image Courtesy of Sybren Stüvel
Silence and Stillness
Not even a Hindu ceremony is allowed to take place during Nyepi. This is the day where Balinese give back to Earth as evident by an off-day by vehicles along with no burning, no flight and only minimal electrical activity is allowed. It is simply a day of total shut down. Nyepi makes for a perfect time to try meditation or simply a relaxing time to do nothing. This might come a surprise to those who are used to leading hectic lifestyle.
Image Courtesy of balebengong.net
Hotels in Bali do offer attractive Nyepi packages to lure guests, which is not entirely a bad thing. However, it is important to not get lost between the line of making Nyepi a business profit and cultural traditions.
If you happen to be at Bali during Nyepi week, you will be able to witness Pengerupukan festivities a day before Nyepi. This usually starts in the morning with blessing ceremonies and the parades of Ogoh-ogoh parades will begin anytime later that afternoon, evening or night. The start of parade time is decided by local Banjar rulings. Nearing the end of the parade, Ogoh- oogh will be carried into a large football field and placed for burning.
Not every Banjar will have this parade or Melasti and Ogoh- ogoh procession, so it is wise to check with your hotel before if you want to take part in this magnificent tradition. As the traffic will be heavily congested, consider walking or leaving early to catch up with it.
On Nyepi day, you will have to stay put on your location since those who wonder the street must have attained proper permits to be able to do so. Hotels will probably offer meditation class as everything else is running as usual but on a much quieter note. As soon as Nyepi passes, you will be able to resume your normal idea of holiday
READ : BALI EVENTS CALENDAR
Cover: Image Courtesy of Matthew Spong