March 28, Nyepi Day, New Year in Bali. Nothing to see here, Demons

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

The Pecalang (traditional Balinese security man) who controls and checks for street security,

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.

A Balinese Hindu throws a duck into the ocean as an offering during Melasti, a purification ceremony ahead of the holy day of Nyepi.


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.

Sources : NYTimes, The Guardian

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