Nyepi, Bali’s Day of Silence

Nyepi, the Day of Silence
When Everything Stops in Bali

Nyepi is celebrated on the New Year in the Balinese Hindu calendar. Spectacular statues- monsters, called Ogoh-Ogoh, personifying the evil spirits, are build by each banyar (neighbourhoods). The statues are paraded in the main street crossings then traditionally burnt before nightfall. Then the whole island falls silent for 24 hours to make the evil spirits believe that Bali is deserted in the hope that they will go away for the next twelve months.

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Nyepi is a day to restore the balance of nature. It origins with King Kaniska I of India in 78 A.D. The King was famous for his wisdom and tolerance.

The days before Nyepi, excitation spreads in the island. Every banyar is building it’s own Ogoh-Ogoh under the lead of local artists. Every member of the community, young or old, lends a hand. As a father explained to me, this is the opportunity toi transmit creative and artistic skills to the children.Bamboo scaffold are raised. Foam,. cardboard, paint, timber and bamboo are the materials of choice. generous donors are listed and their names displayed.

The evening before the Nyepi day itself, the Ogoh-Ogoh are lined up in the streets. Then the priest walk the spirits in the crowd, trances are common, the noise at at its peak. The Ogoh-Ogoh are paraded to the beach. At nightfall people walk home and fast, meditate, reflect in absolute silence for the next 24 hours. The Pacalangs (the security men) are dressed in black . They are the only ones allowed in the streets. Their job is to ensure that Bali is deserted and silent to trick the bad spirits into believing that the island has been abandoned by any living souls. It the trick is successful, the bad spirits will leave the island too and the upcoming year will be prosperous.

Everything stops for Nyepi. The radios and TV stop broadcasting, the busy airport is empty, no one cook, eat, play. Nyepi is a day of silence and reflection.

Words and photos: Jacques Maudy. Copyright: The Tribe Press Agency

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