Nyepi, which comes from the Balinese word “sepi” or silent in English is commemorated from sunrise (6 am) to sunrise (6 am) the following day. This year the “day of silence” starts on March 17th, 2018 and is the most significant date on the local Hindu calendar.
Prayers to the Gods to cleanse the world and universe are offered but in essence the day is a matter for self-reflection to bring about getting rid of all the negativity in one’s life and the world around it so you can channel all your energy towards making a positive start to the New Year which happens the following day.
Since self-reflection is at the core of Nyepi, the best way to achieve this is to have no distractions, hence the silence. Essentially this means no work, no lights or fires, no entertainment and no travel resulting in no one leaving their home, or for a tourist, their hotel or villa. There are exceptions for mothers giving birth or emergencies to hospital.
Included in this shutdown is Bali’s main airport (Ngurah Rai) which is Indonesia’s second busiest airport and normally sees over 55,000 people processed daily.
Additionally, for the first time ever in 2018, mobile internet wifi services will be shut down though just to be clear broadband internet service providers (ISPs) won’t be required to switch things off.
As with most Hindu festivals, Nyepi isn’t just about what goes on, or in this case doesn’t go on, in one day and in the days leading up to and after Nyepi is where some of the most colourful and enthusiastic rituals are to be found.
Melasti held 3 days before Nyepi sees all Hindu’s head predominately to the ocean, though some of the mountain villages will head to lakes, taking with them various offerings. Dressed predominantly in white traditional Balinese costumes, once at the water’s edge the ritual involves purifying these objects along with their bodies, the aim is to cleanse the body or soul (Bhuana Alit) and universe (Bhuana Agung) of evil spirits.
Held in the morning, to witness the thousands of Hindus all lined up in white with stunning decorations, flowers and statues at the water’s edge is a sight like no other.
Not to be outdone, the day before Nyepi is where one of the most fervent of rituals takes hold.
The Bhuta Yajna Ritual and Pengrupukan day are carried out with the aim being to subdue the evil forces in order to create a healthy balance between God, mankind and nature. One of these evil forces is Batara Kala, the God of Destruction and the Underworld who the Balinese believe was sent to earth to punish humans for their evil habits. Known for being very rude and having an insatiable appetite he took a particular liking to appeasing his hunger by way of gorging on mankind.
The best time to rid the earth of all this negativity is around sunset. So after blessings at the family temple, each member of the household chases away these evil forces from their compound accompanied by a deafening sound made up of pots, pans, the kulkul (traditional bamboo bell), drums and whatever else that tinnitus enjoys along with a bamboo torch engulfed in flame.
These evil forces have manifested into Ogoh-ogoh which take shape in the form of unearthly demonic creatures. In the weeks leading up to Nyepi, the local youth get together to create these creatures from an elaborate mix of mainly bamboo and styrofoam before richly painting them. They are then mounted on a pad and paraded around the streets stopping along the way to get in what appears to be a fight by way of being rotated counter-clockwise three times. This performance symbolises the coming together of the bodies with the evil spirits and seeks to confuse them into leaving, thereby stopping the attack on us humans. Once the fight and music reach the ultimate finale, the Ogoh-Ogoh are then set on fire, demonstrating the demons or evil spirits being forced from the earth. This is called the Ngrupuk ritual and is a symbol of self-purification.
This then leads us on to the main reason on why the overseers of Hinduism in the country, the Parisada Hindu Dharma Indonesia (PHDI) want the internet banned on the day of Nyepi.
Along with the day being about a day of rest and reflection with family and asking for blessings and good fortune for loved ones, after the previous days of merriment and purging of evil spirits, the thought is that if these bad entities were to come down for one last look they are supposed to be fooled into seeing a deserted island and not hang around. So with the internet available, people would succumb to taking selfies outside which not only goes against all that the day symbolises but would also now expose Bali and its neighbouring islands to the very same evil spirits that normally would have been tricked into leaving, undoing all the previous day’s efforts.
As I mentioned earlier the internet is for the first time being shut down for 24 hours starting at 6 am on the 17th of March 2018 but this is only mobile data services, so if you are in your villa or hotel the Internet Service Provider (ISP) of your place of stay will still be available.
For a tourist or expat in Bali during Nyepi, the same rules apply although you do have some freedoms within your villa or resorts though it is encouraged to stick to the rules and respect this peaceful and important cultural and religious day.
I have experienced two Nyepi’s and while some people won’t book holidays to Bali or Nusa Lembongan during this time, for me it’s one day… one day where you turn everything off, be still, be silent and just be.
Whether you are celebrating Nyepi on Nusa Lembongan or Bali it truly is a wonderful and unique experience. If you’re at our villa then usually you can see Jungutbatu Village below going about its daily business… so to just sit in the villa on Nyepi and realise everything for as far as the eye can see is silent is a truly magical experience.