Salute sounds of si­lence

Unique Ba­li­nese cel­e­bra­tion gives you time to pon­der mean­ing of life


TO­DAY there will be no cars or mo­tor­bikes on the roads, nor planes fly­ing across the end­less blue skies. There will be no lo­cals or tourists walk­ing the streets. The shops will not open and even the air­port will close for 24 hours. Every­one will be con­fined to their homes, ho­tels or vil­las and many houses will have no elec­tric­ity. It’s March 17 and I’m in Bali for Nyepi Day – or si­lence day. This unique Hindu cel­e­bra­tion is also known as Ba­li­nese new year. It’s the qui­etest day of the year, when peo­ple from all over the Is­land of the Gods abide by a set of lo­cal rules – tourists in­cluded. Ob­served from 6am un­til 6am the next day, Nyepi is a cel­e­bra­tion like no other any­where in the world. It’s a day re­served for self-re­flec­tion, and as such, any­thing that might in­ter­fere with that pur­pose is re­stricted. The main re­stric­tions are no light­ing fires (and lights must be kept low); no work­ing; no en­ter­tain­ment or plea­sure; no trav­el­ling and, for some, no talk­ing or eat­ing at all. The only peo­ple to be seen out­doors are the Pe­calang – tra­di­tional se­cu­rity men who pa­trol the streets to en­sure the pro­hi­bi­tions are be­ing fol­lowed. Nyepi Day cel­e­bra­tions start two days be­fore with colour­ful pro­ces­sions known as Me­lasti pil­grim­ages. Pil­grims from var­i­ous vil­lage tem­ples all over Bali con­vey heir­looms on long walks to­wards the coast­lines where elab­o­rate pu­rifi­ca­tion cer­e­monies take place. The pro­ces­sions are breath­tak­ing as para­sols, ban­ners and small ef­fi­gies of­fer the tourist a truly cul­tural spec­ta­cle. The day be­fore Nyepi, also known as Saka New Year’s Eve, is all about noise and mer­ri­ment with the fa­mous ogoh-ogoh (mon­ster pa­pier-mache ef­figy) pa­rades. Ba­li­nese from lo­cal ban­jars (or dis­tricts) spend weeks de­sign­ing and build­ing the ogoh-ogohs or myth­i­cal fig­ures, that fea­ture an in­tri­cately shaped and tied bam­boo frame­work be­fore many lay­ers of art­work are added. I’m in Ubud for Nyepi Day and the ogoh-ogoh pa­rade is one of the best on the is­land. Each ban­jar tries to outdo the other, and the big­ger and scarier the ogoh-ogoh the bet­ter. As the street pa­rade winds its way to the lo­cal soc­cer fields, bam­boo canons and fire­crack­ers fill the air with flames and smoke. The soc­cer fields take on a car­ni­val at­mos­phere. Fes­tiv­i­ties over, we slowly walk back to our ac­com­mo­da­tion – the beau­ti­ful Hon­ey­moon Guest­house on Jalan Bisma. I wake early on Nyepi Day, with only the sounds of the birds in the frangi­pani tree out­side my win­dow to dis­turb me. We have stocked up on books and down­loaded games for the iPad (the guest­house rooms to my great plea­sure have no TVs) and we spend the day swim­ming, re­lax­ing, read­ing, med­i­tat­ing and en­joy­ing an af­ter­noon siesta. I awake the next day just af­ter 6am to the fa­mil­iar sounds of mo­tor­bikes and honk­ing car horns. The si­lence is bro­ken.


REV­ELRY: One of the spec­tac­u­lar ogoh-ogohs that lined the streets in Ubud for Nyepi Day cel­e­bra­tions.

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