The Balinese celebrate their new year like no other. Celebrations last for 6 days and include parties, parades, prayers and a whole Day of Silence. As a visitor in Bali, you’re encouraged to join in the festivities, especially the Ogoh-Ogoh parade on the second day is memorable event to witness. But, you’re also required to respect the most unique day of the festivities; Silence Day.
Are you traveling to Bali in March? Then check out the information below so you’re well prepared to blend in with the locals.
Two days before Nyepi, on the first day of the start of a new “Caka” year, Hindus from different villages gather together and walk in long colorful processions toward the coastline. It’s a wonderful parade to behold and one of the best opportunities to capture an iconic Balinese procession on camera. The ritual is meant to purify sacred objects that belong to several temples. At the same time people acquire sacred water from the sea.
The highlight of the day before Nyepi without a doubt are the Ogoh-Ogoh parades. During sunset (between 5pm and 6pm) the Balinese parade the streets of their village with their gigantic statues, which took them approximately two months (and probably a whole lot of Bintangs) to build. Ogoh-Ogohs are made of bamboo and paper and represent evil creatures. During the parade a passionate but deafening mixture of the kulkul, claxons, gamelan and drum music is played. The idea is to make as much noise as possible to scare away evil spirits.
Parades take place all over the island, but the most famous ones can be observed in the streets of Kuta, Legian and Seminyak. If you’re not one to enjoy a long and loud procession, then check with the reception of your hotel, as many hotels build and parade their own Ogoh-Ogoh as well. In an attempt to put an end to any evil influences in live, the statues are burnt after the parade and this is followed by a great party, whereby Balinese party, drink and feast till late.
The most important and sacred Hindu holiday in Bali, Nyepi Day, is also a general public holiday throughout the rest of Indonesia. Nyepi Day is part of the 6 days lasting Balinese New Year celebrations. As opposed to most other cultures in the world, where people often flock to the streets to celebrate the arrival of the new year with music, dance and fireworks, in Bali the streets go empty, and the island turns all dark and quiet. That’s why Nyepi Day is also often referred to as Silence Day.
This unique celebration happens on the 3rd day of Balinese New Year and falls on the day after the dark moon of the spring equinox. On this day the day and night are of equal duration. The name Nyepi means “to keep silence”, and even Ngurah Rai, the international airport of Bali, closes for a whole 24 hours.
So, why are the Balinese spending a long day in complete silence? The reason is that they use this day to connect more deeply with God, through prayer, self-reflection, fasting and meditation. On this day people shall not work, not eat and not play. Anything that could disturb the connection with God is prohibited. The complete silence is based on the four general rules of Catur Brata: no fire or light, no form of physical working, no movement or traveling, fasting and no entertainment.
But there’s also another story to this unique Day of Silence in Bali. After all the exuberant celebrations of the first two days of Balinese New Year, the island has to go in hiding to protect itself from evil spirits. By observing complete silence and darkness, evil spirits will pass over and either not notice that there’s an island beneath them or believing that it’s a deserted island; either way, they will continue their journey to another place.
The fourth ritual, in line with the essence of Silence Day, is dedicated to meditation. Starting at 6:00 am, faithful Balinese spend 24 hours in meditation.
On the day after Nyepi, people visit their families in their home villages to ask for forgiveness and to start the new year fresh. It’s similar to the Western version of New Year, where people welcome new days to come.
The final ritual is the reading of ancient scriptures and this is usually performed after all the Nyepi rituals are finished. The Dharma Shanti Rituals mark the end of very sacred and unique week of celebrations, and a highlight on the Balinese calendar.
We have spent Nyepi Day in Bali several times and absolutely loved it. We can highly recommend you plan your holiday around these festivities and enjoy this quiet and peaceful day in one of Bali’s fine resorts. As opposed to the locals, tourists are still able to enjoy their day, but have to do it within the premises of their accommodation. Most hotels and resort cater perfectly to this, with fun activities for children during the day. At night all the windows are being blacked-out so that you can still enjoy a nice dinner and perhaps a movie afterwards. Don’t forget to sneak out to your hotel’s garden and take a peek at the horizon. On a dark night like this you’ve got an amazing view at the moon and the Milky Way.
Are you sold yet? Go, and submit your holiday approval form to your boss and contact us for assistance with the arrangement of your own, unique Nyepi experience.
Future Nyepi Day dates: