So I recently found out that my second day in Bali was a national holiday called Nyepi. Nyepi is the Balinese Hindu new year and is a national day of silence, meaning no one is allowed to be outside or you are detained and fined!! So I spent my second day in Bali inside the homestay quarters. At first I was annoyed when I heard this but then realized that it is a very special time to be here and I should be thankful to get to experience it.
The preparation for Nyepi begins 2 days before with rituals and ceremonies. The day I arrived was the eve of Nyepi also known as Tawur Kesanga and is the day on which evil spirits are driven away. The villages and neighborhoods are cleaned, food is cooked for 2 days and at dusk people start to bang pots and pans and carry torches. Demon monsters with bulging eyes are made out of bamboo, papier-mâché and cloth (known as ogoh-ogoh) are carried through the streets in a torch-lit parade. These demons represent the mythical giant Bhuta Kala and symbolize evil. Offerings which are sometimes smelly and include blood (such as small chickens) are placed on the ground to entice the demons and evil spirits. Once the demons have been lured, the priests then recite curses on them in order to force them to leave the village. Everybody joins in to help by beating pots and tin cans, tooting vehicle horns and making lots of noise. I went out that night and there were thousands of peoples on the streets waiting for the start of the parade.
The floats are actually held up by men and children, above their heads and as they walk the music is playing and they crouch down and move side to side so it looks like the demon is alive and moving, it was scary looking! The whole evening was like New Year’s Eve in Times Square and the Macy’s day parade rolled up in to one, except the floats were demons instead of disney characters.
I made my way out around 5pm to see the streets blocked off and Balinese sitting on the ground, playing music and reciting the verses to lure out the evil spirits. After a while I walked down the street away from the action. It was just so hot and there were too many people. I also saw little kids playing down the street who were being kept away from the crowd as to not disrupt the ceremony (it was like the crying room at church). What I didn’t realize was that this area was right in front of a temple and about 30 minutes later tons of people where being carried and escorted to the temple because they were possessed by the evil spirits. I still don’t understand what really happened but they were screaming, crying and shaking as they were scurried past me. From what I could see, once they were inside the temple gates they were cleansed in holy water and meant to smell some type of incense. It was a little freaky, I need to find some info on what was really going on.
On the actual day of Nyepi, the Hindu Balinese refrain from all worldly and physical activities for 24 hours. It is customary to meditate and practice yoga and reflect on the wrongs that may have been committed in the past year. Everyone stays inside their homes and are not allowed to speak, eat, drink, answer telephones, receive guests or use appliances. Lights must not be turned on and no fires may be lit, including stoves. It is a day of self-control and introspection in order to achieve full spiritual purification for the upcoming year.
In Bali, religion is a very important part of everyday life and you can noticeable see that in the beautiful people here. On top of that what a great day that everyone is forced to be inside and not work, a true day of rest of EVERYONE. On top of that, think about the reduction in pollution made in one day with no one driving?
We of course were allowed to use electricity in our homestay and 2 staff were kept on board to cook our meals. It was a day of being lazy, not spending money, catching up on emails, working out, and just relaxing ALL in the comfort of my private room!