Nyepi: Balinese New Year

 

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Only .7% of the American population practices Hinduism so it is a religion that I am completely unfamiliar with.  Before going to Indonesia I knew that it was predominately a Muslim country but the island of Bali is largely Hindu and I was intrigued to learn more.

Balinese Culture and Hinduism 

Balinese Hinduism is a unique religion that is deeply rooted in their culture.  Hindu is a deity religion, where there are different gods and spirits.  The main goal of the Balinese religion is to keep in balance with the forces of dharma and adharma.  Much like other religions there are three “worlds”, an upper, middle and lower that each have their own meanings.  Consequently, each village will have three temples leaving speculation that there are over 20,000 temples on the small island.  The temples honor Brahma the creator, Wisnu the preserver and Siwa the destroyer.

temple by the sea
A temple by the sea

Daily Offerings: Canang Sari

Once in Bali you will find small baskets full of rice and flowers everywhere, sitting on the ground outside of shops and restaurants, resting below statues and shrines.  These are offerings to the gods and are for good luck and prosperity.  These are small gestures that are made and placed around daily, and although you try carefully to walk around them you’ll most likely accidentally smush one or two while roaming through the streets of Bali.

Setting out daily offerings
Setting out daily offerings

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Sound of Silence: Nyepi and the days surrounding Balinese New Year 

Melasti

There are several events and rituals leading up to the celebration of Nyepi.  Melasti is two days before the new year and it’s more of a day of celebration.  There is a processional that will lead to a beach in a purifcation/cleansing ceremony.

Tawur Agung

The eve of Nypei, tawur agung is when rituals are performed to scare away evil spirits.  Large, creepy paper-mache figures called Ogoh-Ogoh are made in the weeks before Nyepi and are carried through a processional and burned during the ceremony to scare demons away.  They are menacing looking creatures and it is eery to see them all lined up outside of some of the handicraft shops in preparation for the events.

ogoh ogoh

Nyepi

A day of silence commemorating the Balinese new year, this quiet day is dedicated for meditation and reflection and there are many restrictions that come along with the celebration like little or no electricity, no working, no traveling, staying indoors and for some people, fasting.  Symbolically the day of silence is to trick the evil spirits into thinking there is no one on the island.  No one goes out of their homes, all public areas even the airport are closed and this is enforced by a traditional police force called Pecalang.  It must be an interesting experience to have a hush over such a bustling island, the feeling as if it’s deserted when normally it’s full of motorbikes and tourists.

Ngembak Geni

The day following the new year celebration is a day of atonement and forgiveness, a celebration of the year to come.

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Happy New Year Bali!

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