20 February 2016

March 9 2016, Nyepi, the day of Silence

On March 9 this year, Balinese Hindus will be celebrating Saka New Year 1938, known locally as Nyepi (Hindu Day of Silence).

In other traditions and cultures, the New Year is marked by lavish and glittering fiestas. Not in Bali! The Saka New Year is seen as the door to refreshed spiritual enlightenment and an enriched soul. It is a time for contemplation and the four abstinences of Nyepi — amati geni (refraining from lighting fires and turning on lights); amati karya (refraining from work); amati lelanguan (refraining from indulgence) and amati lelungan (refraining from traveling outside the house) for 24 hours.

Immediately prior to the Day of Silence, Balinese Hindus hold a series of elaborate rituals, starting with melasti — a procession to the sea, or closest river or lake, to purify the body and soul, as well as all the temple paraphernalia; mecaru — cleansing homes and villages to appease evil spirits that could disrupt the harmony of the universe and, on New Year’s Eve, Tawur Kesanga, or Pengerupuk, to drive away all the evil spirits.

Pengerupuk takes the form of boisterous processions organized by each hamlet’s male youth group, with the evil spirits represented by ogoh-ogoh — gigantic, hideous caricatures of evil with bulging eyes, enormous bodies and scary faces.

The ogoh-ogoh parades have become a tourist attraction in their own right and well-known parade locations are inundated every year with locals, domestic and foreign tourists keen to see this energetic ritual that lasts into the night.

On Nyepi, the whole island ceases all activities — there are no inbound or outbound flights, the ports and harbors are closed, no-one is allowed to travel outside their household complex or hotel and even cable television channels are suspended between 6 a.m. on March 9 and 6 a.m. the following day. This “inactive world” is intended to convince any evil spirits that Bali is uninhabited and of no interest, while coincidentally significantly reducing the island’s air and noise pollution.

The uniqueness of Nyepi has attracted the interest of many local and international scholars, who study the impact of this incredible religious event on the people’s physical and spiritual wellbeing, as well as on society and the environment.

While the locals, including non-Hindu residents, are required to stay home and abide by customary village laws, visitors may continue their activities, provided they stay inside the hotel premises.
Many hotels, resorts and villas offer special Nyepi packages for tourists choosing to experience this special occasion in Bali.

More at www.thejakartapost.com

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