The thought of a New Year’s celebration brings to mind fireworks, resolutions, and merrymaking in general. However, in Bali, New Year’s celebration is a day of solemnity and silence. Nyepi, also known as ‘day of silence’ is a festival of silence celebrated by Indonesian Hindus. It happens every Isakawarsa of the Indonesian Saka calendar when the island shuts down for 24-hours. The celebration takes place over six days when shops, banks, and streets close early.
Balinese Hindus believe that on Nyepi, evil spirits surround the island. To avoid disturbing these spirits and trick them into thinking that there is no life on the island, the silence remains maintained. Every single day of the festival holds a different significance with unique rituals performed all across Bali.
Day 1 of Nyepi
3-4 days before Nyepi, the Melasti ritual is performed in Balinese Temples located near the sea to purify sacred objects from temples in the holy waters of the sea. Villagers in Bali form processions carrying idols from shrines, bathing them in the sea and then returning them back to their respective shrines.
Performed the day before Nyepi, the sea Ritual denotes to dispel negative energies and create a good balance in the environment. Balinese devotees create ‘ogoh-ogoh’, demonic effigies made of bamboo and paper and parade them around the island.
On Nyepi, the Balinese observe a day of silence, fasting, and prayer. They follow four main restrictions on this day:
- There is no lighting of fires or using electricity
- No one is to work
- There is no entertainment
- No travelling
All Bali Hindus and non-Hindus as well follow these restrictions. If you visit Bali during this time, make sure you abide as well, although you can do what you want within your hotel. Everything remains shut for the day, including the airport, ATMs, and stores. You can only be allowed to travel in the case of an emergency. Your local travel guide from Locaguide will tell you more about this and help you understand how to make most of this day in Bali.
A fascinating practice takes place on this day called ‘Omed-Omedan’ (literally translated into pull-pull) or ‘the Kissing Ritual’. Unmarried youths aged 17 to 30 years take part in this festival, where male participants pull in female participants and kiss them, while villagers pour buckets of water on them.
On this day, the locals of Bali visit friends and family in order to ask for forgiveness. With this ritual, they hope they can start the new year afresh and welcome new days for more prosperity.
Upon completion of all the Nyepi rituals, they perform a Dharma Shanti ceremony. It implies a closing ceremony after which the festivities end and life goes back to normal in Bali.
Though Bali is a gorgeous place to visit all year round, it occurs spectacularly unique to visit during Nyepi and definitely calls for a visit to experience it first hand.2