Nyepi Day In Bali and What It Means For Tourists
Nyepi Day in Bali is a day of silence. It’s a day to reflect the preceding year of 420 days (1 year on the Balinese calendar) to be thankful for all that their gods have brought for that year.
The Balinese believe in positive and negative energies, karma and generally being kind to their fellow men and women. The western world could learn a lot from this gentle race of people.
It’s why Nyepi Day is such an important day to the Balinese. A day to honor, a day to reflect, a day to fast and a day to pray and meditate.
As a tourist here in Bali it’s noticeably quieter, I noticed the moment I woke.
The familiar distant sounds of motorbikes roaring the streets and the resort staff attending to the gardens and other jobs, noticeably absent.
Someone forgot to mention Nyepi Day to the roosters tho, they were right on cue, just like clockwork!
Nyepi Day, one of the many Balinese ceremonies is celebrated by the Balinese the majority of whom are Hindus. All other religions be it Buddhists, Muslims or Christians also honor this day. No businesses are open, nobody is on the streets and if you are a tourist in Bali you must stay in your resort, hotel, villa or other accommodation honor and respect Nyepi Day in Bali.
Balinese Hindus spend 24 hours fasting, meditating or praying, it is also a day of complete silence they don’t speak, no radio, no electronic devices and no TV, in fact, TV isn’t broadcasted on Nyepi Day!
Balinese Hindus consider themselves “true Hindus” as my tour guide explained to me. He likened his people’s culture and religion to India’s Hindus proudly announcing that “my people were true Hindus as they honored Nyepi Day.” Apparently Indian Hindus don’t.
Perhaps this is because it’s a fairly new celebration only recognized in the 1980’s although I have seen large signs proudly stating since 1938, so I sense there’s a little controversy about Nyepi Day!
Essential service Balinese are the only people who have permission to work on Nyepi Day. You would only hear the sirens of an ambulance on the streets for a life-threatening illness.
Skeleton staff man the necessities, e.g. the kitchen to keep the tourist bellies full, although I’m sure some of us could also do with a day of fasting as the food here is fabulous, many guilty (me included!) of eating way too much!
Nyepi Day for tourists isn’t a hardship I assure you, it’s a forced relaxation day, a day to stop, relax and reflect.
The eve before Nyepi Day is a day full of celebration and excitement. Just after dusk, the Ngrupuk parade takes place. Eight men carry each Ogoh Ogoh statues built on a small pad and secured to a bamboo platform.
Many statues of Ogoh Ogoh are made from a variety of different materials. Each village expresses it uniqueness by designing their own Ogoh Ogoh to carry around their village.
This was the day we traveled through many different villages. We were heading to the Elephant Orphanage and had the opportunity to witness the Balinese getting ready for the Ogoh Ogoh festival.
There were lots of different statues some fun and some pretty scary looking too!
For the festival the men carry the Ogoh Ogoh through the village, turning 3 times at every intersection and crossroads. The whole point of the parade is to scare and keep the “bad spirits” away from the villagers.
Music and fire are also a part of the Ogoh Ogoh parade. The village youth play music usually with their Gamelan’s (similar to a xylophone) gong’s, flutes and drums.
The parade usually finishes with a ceremonial burning of the statues a symbol of self-purification.
All the villagers gather to eat and we saw many women in the formal celebrational dress carrying little bamboo boxes with food prepared for the evening’s festivities.
After dinner, the villagers return to their homes and at midnight 24 hours of silence, fasting and prayer and Nyepi Day commence.
Many tourists stay away from Bali for Nyepi Day, however, I’d encourage you to experience it first hand if you are remotely interested in learning about other cultures.
Tell me, have you experienced Nyepi Day or something similar in your travels?