Why Bali falls completely silent for a day

Why Bali falls completely silent for a day
Why Bali falls completely silent for a day

Bali, Indonesia is one of the world’s most popular holiday destinations- especially for Australians.

The streets tingle with the whizz of motorbikes and the happy buzz of music pouring out of local cafes.

But one day a year, the entire island falls silent.

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“Mesabatan Api” or “fire war” is another Ngrupuk tradition. (Agung Parameswara/Getty Images via CNN Newsource)

This is Nyepi, Balinese New Year.

Unlike many other cultures, Balinese Hindus don’t mark the new year with fireworks, parties or drinking.

Instead, they observe Nyepi, or silence.

For a 24-hour period starting at 6am, Balinese Hindus fast, meditate, turn off the electricity and stay home with their families.

Local security officers, called pecalang, patrol the streets to make sure no one goes out.

There are no cars on the streets save the occasional ambulance.

The whole island comes to a halt.

Scenes from the ogoh-ogoh parade in Bali. (Putu Sayoga/Getty Images via CNN Newsource)

Regardless of their personal beliefs, everyone visiting during Nyepi will be affected by the holiday.The airport and all tourist attractions are closed, and hotels do not check anyone in or out during this period.

Amanda Syrowatka, owner of the Viceroy Bali, helps manage expectations for hotel guests during Nyepi.

She points out that while there is one day of silence, the days leading up to Balinese New Year are very popular with visitors due to special rituals you can’t experience anywhere else.

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What is Nyepi and what does it represent?

The Balinese calendar is 210 days long, and Nyepi falls on the day following the new moon of the 10th lunar month – this year, March 11.

The day before Nyepi is Ngrupuk, when giant monster effigies called ogoh ogoh, representing evil spirits, are paraded around by local children.

These effigies take months to make out of papier mache and are symbolically burned after the parade.

“From the religious and philosophy point of view, Nyepi is meant to be a day of self-introspection to reflect on values of our humanity, love, patience and kindness that should be within ourselves for the rest of our lives,” says Professor Wayan Ari, academic director of the School for International Training and a Bali native.

Ngrupuk, then, is a day to get all the noise-making out of one’s system before marking the new year with introspection.

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Wayan explains that it’s traditional to go around from house to house “carrying a torch, making a lot of noises, spitting local meswi spice in every corner of the buildings in our house compound, and building a ‘cross’ or tapakdara from white limestone on the feet of our family shrines.”

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While the majority of Indonesians are Muslim, Bali is an exception by being primarily Hindu.

Although Hinduism originated in India, Balinese Hinduism has many different customs and practices. Hindu holidays like Holi and Diwali are much less popular on the island than Nyepi.

What is it like for a visitor during Nyepi?

Jero Mangku Tindih is the resort manager at the Viceroy Bali. A native of the island, he relishes the opportunity to educate people about his culture’s beliefs and practices.

He and the Viceroy’s Syrowatka work together on an annual special Nyepi package to help guests understand and take part in the observances.

Tindih and his team will talk to guests ahead of Nyepi and invite them to the nearby village to join in with the Ngrupuk celebrations.

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The Viceroy’s website blocks off Nyepi from its booking calendar (guests who arrive before the holiday can remain, but no one can check in or begin a new reservation that day) and provides information for tourists ahead of their trips.

Balinese traditional guards, or pecalang, patrol during the observation of Nyepi on March 31, 2014 in Kuta, Bali, Indonesia. (Putu Sayoga/Getty Images via CNN Newsource)

Visitors cannot leave their hotels or rental apartments on Nyepi. If they’d like to experience the day like a local, they can opt to eschew electronic devices and modern technology.

The Viceroy provides three meals – since no restaurants are open – and keeps the pool, spa and gym open for guests who want to use them. The Wi-Fi also stays on.

“We respect our culture, but we also respect our guests,” says Tindih.

“They are not the same religion as us, so that means our hotel is still operating normally.”

For Ngrupuk, team members will transport interested guests to a nearby village via golf cart.

In addition to the ogoh ogoh parade, they can watch the fire war – a dramatic ritual where local men light coconut husks on fire and toss them at each other.

While some tourists plan to come to Bali for Nyepi specifically to witness or take part in the holiday, some find themselves there unexpectedly.

American freelance writer Margot Biggs was in the latter category.

(Supplied)

Though she wasn’t aware of the holiday or the regulations around it when she booked her 2019 vacation, she says that her Ubud hotel reached out to her over email to explain Nyepi and what would be happening – or not happening – during that day.

“While I might not plan a trip around Nyepi,” says Bigg,

“I certainly wouldn’t mind being in Bali for it again. It’s a beautiful tradition that we could all benefit from practicing for our own spiritual and mental health.”

Source: travel.nine.com.au

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