Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Oh So Quiet!

For shame! Even a most loyal Bali-lover like myself can get forgetful. And, that means that Nyepi came and went a scant 2 weeks ago and I didn't know it. So, I'm hoping the bhuta kala accept this blog on my behalf and don't torment me for the rest of the year!
(Don't know what I'm talking about? Then, the below is definitely for you!)

In honor of the holiDAYtrips blog going to Bali last May, today’s entry is all about the Balinese Day of Silence, or Nyepi. A Hindu holiday observed every year on the first new moon after the spring equinox, Nyepi is a day of silence, fasting, and meditation.

Observed for a full 24 hours, from 6am to 6am, Nyepi is reserved for self-reflection and requires those participating to stay indoors and refrain from anything that might impede their contemplation. This means no working, lighting fires or cooking, entertaining, and any other strenuous activity, including any type of hanky-panky! And, some very pure devotees don’t utter a word or eat anything for the full 24 hour period.

Need a visual?! Well, Ed and I were happy to help break this one down for you!

Out of respect for their fellow Hindu citizens, many of Bali’s non-Hindu residents also observe Nyepi. And, Pecalangs (Balinese security officers) literally keep the "peace," as they patrol the streets, watching for any activities that may derail Nyepi. Even if you’re merely a wandering tourist, a Pecalang will usually escort you back to your hotel; since streets are closed to pedestrians as well as vehicles. Even the airports are closed on Nyepi.

Now, the Day of Silence is pretty fantastic in itself; but, in my opinion, the beauty of the shift into the Balinese New Year can only fully be understood through the days surrounding Nyepi.

The day before Nyepi, the Tawur Kesanga ritual is held. First, a payment is offered to pacify the evil spirits (bhuta kala). Then, villages erect large bamboo versions of Ogoh-ogoh (evil troll-looking fanged monsters that represent the evil spirits) and parade them around.

Ogoh-ogoh and Balinese children in Ubud
(Photo: Jack Merridew)
In the evening torches are lit, the Ogoh-ogoh are burned, and things get loud! This scares away any remaining evil spirits and represents the island being cleansed in the New Year.

And, of course, all of this ends as total silence falls over Bali, on Nyepi -- in an effort to trick evil spirits into thinking the island is empty so they will not come back.

The day following Nyepi is one of my favorite cultural observances. It’s called Ngembak Geni and it’s a day of forgiveness. People visit their relatives and friends, seek understanding and absolution for the wrongs of the previous year, and pledge to work together to meet the trials of the New Year.

Pretty astounding, isn’t it?

Happy Balinese New Year! Now, get off the computer! You’re not supposed to be working today. Go read a book! (Make it a book on Bali.)

Selamat Jalan,


The “Packing List”

This week, we were rocking the following:

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