Every culture and religion in the world has its own way to define and celebrate the coming of the New Year. While the Chinese have the Lunar New Year celebrations, the Muslims celebrate the first of Muharram, and the world in general celebrates the first day of January, the Hindus of Bali welcome the New Year based on the traditional Saka Calendar with the ritual of Nyepi. This year, Nyepi, the day of complete silence and meditation, falls on the 28th March 2017.
Image via Ngurah Belayu
Festivities, however, are held on the eve of Nyepi. this year on 27th March evening, when huge Ogoh-ogoh or papier-maché effigies are paraded around the village or along beaches to be burnt to cinders, denoting that all evil on this island has, thereby, been cleansed.
Please Note: Travelers planning to fly to or from Bali on or around this date:Tuesday, 28 March 2017, the entire island of Bali will come to a complete halt, - or as American TV would say: is in "lock down" mode - to allow all to follow the prescribed rituals. Bali's Ngurah Rai International Airport will be closed. No planes will land or take off for 24 hours. All traffic across Bali will be stopped. All shops are closed. No pedestrian traffic is allowed on the beach or on the streets. There will be local watchmen known as pecalang to ascertain that this rule is strictly obeyed. At night, all lights will have to be turned off. Hotels will close all curtains so that no ray of light shines to the outside. All sound and music indoors should be held to its lowest volume.
For, contrary to other cultures that celebrate New Year with vivacious and loud festivities, the pinnacle of Balinese New Year is a day of complete Silence. Hence the name Nyepi, meaning "to keep silent" in the local language, which falls on the day following the dark moon of the spring equinox. Nyepi is a day fully dedicated to connect oneself more closely with God (Hyang Widi Wasa) through prayers and meditation, and at the same time as a day of introspection to decide on values, such as humanity, love, patience, kindness, and others, that should be kept forever. On the eve of Nyepi, celebrations are held throughout the island with large papier-mache giants, called Ogoh-Ogoh, paraded on the beach accompanied by loud gamelan music. These are then torched and, it is believed, that with the conflagration, any evil spirits that have brought disease and misery to the island during the past year will have also been banished.
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