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 a 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 is the Ogoh-Ogoh parades. During sunset (between 5 pm and 6 pm) 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 life, 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 a 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 afterward. 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 of 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.
Not only do they celebrate annual holidays, Balinese people also celebrate numerous other occasions, such as the full moon & new moon, the anniversary of their temples, and the days called “Tumpek”. Throughout the Pawukon cycle, which lasts 210 days, there are six auspicious days that are known as Tumpek. These special days usually fall on a Saturday. The six Balinese Tumpek are listed below, you might want to check out some Tumpek ceremonies when you’re on the island over these dates.
Tumpek Kandang is a Balinese Holiday dedicated to Sang Hyang Rare Angon, the god of all cattle and livestock. Household animals, such as pigs, cows, ducks, and birds deserve extra attention on this day.
Prayers are offered and at the end of the ceremony, the animals are sprinkled with holy water and rice, before they receive a special meal. In general in Bali cows are looked after very well. This is because a lot of farmers still depend on them when plowing the fields. On this day said livestock is washed and dressed-up in clothes that are fit for humans. A special cone-shaped spiral of coconut leaves is placed on each of the cow’s horns. Pigs, on the other hand, are wrapped with a white cloth around their belly.
Overall, the meaning of Tumpek Kandang is not only to pray for successful farming and animal welfare, it’s also meant to raise awareness for the harmony of the environment which contributes to human sustenance and happiness. After all, without animals, the traditional cycle of life would be severely interrupted.
Future Tumpek Kandang
Another popular Tumpek day in Bali is Tumpek Wayang. On this Saturday the local puppeteers are dedicating prayers to their puppetswith the intention of honoring the Lord Iswara.
A salients point here is that, although Tumpek Wayang is a special holiday for puppeteers and their wayang puppets, it is considered very unlucky if a baby is born on this day. What the Balinese believe is that the little one is prone to illness and injury from Kala, the demon god. If a mother gives birth on Tumpek Wayang, a special ceremony has to be performed to purify the baby and protect it from harm. With the help of a specific set of puppets, a dalang carries out the Tumpek Wayang ceremony. He makes holy water, also known as toya penglukatan, that is used to purify the baby.
Future Tumpek Wayang