Nyepi Day, the day of silence, is the most significant date on the Hindu calendar. It’s a day when everything shuts down. No one is allowed out of their homes, only few people work, there is no or very little electricity allowed, TV is shut down, you can’t cook or do household chores…even the Denpasar airport shuts for the day. What an incredibly powerful belief that can close such a busy airport for a day. Nyepi Day has become a day of rest and reflection with family, a day to cherish what we have, ask for blessings and good fortune for loved ones, with fasting and meditation also being a feature.
But it also has a more ‘spooky’ meaning…saying goodbye to spirits and ghosts and cleansing the world for a new year. You see Nyepi ceremonies actually start several days before the actual Nyepi day. There is the ceremony Melasti, where Hindus go to the ocean, or if that isn’t possible, the nearest body of water like a lake or a river, and they cleanse symbols or statues in a process that is supposed to bring them closer to their Gods. The beaches are lined with thousands of Hindus in traditional clothing, all waiting for their turn. Stunning decorations and flowers and colours can be seen for miles.
Then comes Tawur Kesanga which is held the day before Nyepi. On this day, towards nightfall, everyone gathers in central points of villages and streets to see the Ogoh-Ogoh ceremony. The Ogoh-Ogoh are terrifying demonic-looking and often enormous effigies. They all have fangs, grotesque faces, talons, bulging eyes…sounds attractive right? The Ogoh-Ogoh are paraded through the streets where they all finally meet and ‘fight’. After the fight and music reaches the ultimate finale, the Ogoh-Ogoh are then set on fire, demonstrating the demons or evil spirits being forced from the earth.
Nyepi Day sees everyone stay at home, no traffic on the roads, no people in the streets (except the Pecalang who ensure no one is outside), no work, no noise, just silence…except for the distant sound of dogs barking or roosters announcing the new day. For a tourist or expat in Bali during Nyepi, the same rules apply although you do have some freedoms within your homes or resorts but it is encouraged to stick to the rules and respect this peaceful and important cultural and religious day. I have just experienced my second Nyepi and while some people won’t book holidays to Bali during this time, for me it’s one day… one day where you turn everything off, be still, be silent and just be.
The day after Nyepi is a day of forgiveness where people go see family or friends they feel they have wronged, and ask for forgiveness and a new start to a new year. And after fasting on Nyepi, it’s also when shops and warungs are open again and people fill the streets of Bali as usual.
Celebrating Nyepi on Nusa Lembongan is a wonderful and unique experience. Normally you sit in the villa and you can see the village alive and moving about it’s daily business… so to sit in the villa on Nyepi and to witness the silence and realise everything is still for as far as the eye can see, it’s a truly magical experience in a truly magical place. It’s a holiday memory that will stay with you forever and we’d love you to experience that at the villa.