The Silent Day “Nyepi” is to trick demons into believing there is no life on the island of Bali, so they can leave.
The demons have been called during “Ogoh-Ogoh” day when Balinese people parade in the street with monstrous handmade creatures.
No traffic, no fire, no work and no pleasure
Bali’s celebrates the Hindu New Year as the Bali Day of Silence, the quietest day of the year.
The Balinese Hindus follow a ritual called the Catur Brata Penyepian, roughly the ‘Four Nyepi Prohibitions’.
These include amati geni or ‘no fire’, amati lelungan or ‘no traffic’, amati karya ‘no work’, and amati lelanguan ‘no pleasure’.
Motor vehicles are allowed on the streets only for emergencies.
Hotel guests are confined to the grounds of their resorts.
Traditional community watch patrols called pecalang enforce the rules of Nyepi, patrolling the streets by day and night in shifts.
Transgressors must pay small fines to the local village council.
Chase away malevolent forces
The evening before Nyepi is all noise and celebration to chase away malevolent forces.
People start late in the afternoon, banging pots, pans and empty water containers.
Young men and teens, fueled on arak – Bali’s dangerous moonshine – shoot off “toy” bamboo cannons that belch flame and smoke.
Each neighborhood works on its own grotesque New Year’s Eve creation.
These are huge, ugly ogoh-ogoh papier mache effigies, with bulging eyes, fangs and hairy backs representing evil spirits.
They are paraded through the streets, accompanied by traditional gamelan bands and drumming, and burnt to much jubilation.
Village on a pilgrimage
New Year rituals start three days before Nyepi, with Melasti purification ceremonies on beaches.
Every village makes a pilgrimage to the coast, taking sacred temple objects for cleansing and blessings.
After the silence, smooches
On the day after Nyepi, the omed-omedan or ‘Festival of Smooches’ is celebrated.
This is a local event for Sesetan’s Banjar Kaja community.
Young people take to the streets where villagers splash and spray water.
The highlight is two throngs of boys and girls in a kinda tug-of-war. Successive pairs in the middle are pushed to a smooch with each shove and push.
Siobhan is a freelance writer, research addict and lover of twisted history. If you like horrible but amazing history, check out her website www.interesly.com or Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/interesly. Or you can reach her through www.siobhanoshea.com.