Nyepi on Nusa Lembongan
Nyepi or Day of Silence is a Hindu New Year celebration across all of Bali’s Regencies and one City.
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. In 2021 the “day of silence” begins on Sunday March 14th and is the most significant date on the local Hindu calendar.
Prayers to the Gods to cleanse the world and universe are offered. 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.
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 65,000 people processed daily.
Additionally, for the first time ever starting in 2018, mobile internet wifi services were shut down though just to be clear broadband internet service providers (ISP’s) are not required to switch things off so if you are in your villa or hotel the internet will still be available.
To ensure this silence is adhered to, policing the streets are the “pecalang” who are local security forces that are the eyes and ears of the different Royal Families that make up the Bali Kingdom.
- Nyepi Rituals -
As with most Hindu festivals, Nyepi isn’t just about what goes on, or in this case doesn’t go on, in one day. 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 Hindu’s head 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 rituals takes place.
The Bhuta Yajna Ritual is 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 late in the day when the Pengrupukan ceremony takes place. After blessings at the family temple, each member of the household chases away these evil forces from their compound by walking around and creating a deafening sound by banging on pots, pans, the kulkul (traditional bamboo bell), drums and whatever else that tinnitus enjoys along with a bamboo torch wrapped in dried coconut leaves and 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 within a frame and paraded around the streets stopping along the way to get in what appears to be a fight by way of being rotated counterclockwise 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.
On Nyepi day itself along with the reason for being silent so as to rest and reflect with family and ask 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. If people are doing something other than what the day symbolises and moving about they would 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.
The day after Nyepi (Ngembak Geni – Relighting the Fire) electricity and fires are allowed again as is the cooking of food and families and friends come together to perform certain religious rituals and ask forgiveness from one another.
According to Wikipedia, it is the oldest ritual celebrated in human history.
For a tourist or expat in Bali during Nyepi, the same rules apply although you do have some freedoms within your villa or resort. In saying that please keep in mind it is encouraged to stick to the rules and respect this peaceful and important cultural and religious day.
I have experienced several 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 Jungut Batu 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.
It’s a holiday memory that will stay with you forever and we’d love you to experience that at 353 Degrees North.
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