Have you ever heard of a day where everything – and I mean that literally – shuts down? Even the airport?
Enter Nyepi Day Bali!
Nyepi or Silent Day is the New Year according to the Balinese Hindu calendar and a day of self-reflection where fasting, silence and meditation are practised. All people in Bali, regardless if non-Hindu resident or foreigner, have to bring everything to a complete halt from 06:00 am to 06:00 am the next day. Whether that’s driving, working, playing or swimming, simply everything is regulated by local rules that forbid people to step outside their private premises. That means that there is NO traffic, NO flights, NO shopping, NO entertainment and NO person outside, except specially assigned security, called ‘Pecalang’, that patrol the streets to ensure everyone follows the main rules:
– Use electricity at a minimum
– Stay within your house
– No noise
Failure results in verbal warnings and/or minor monetary penalties.
The turn of the Balinese calendar or Saka calendar follows the lunar sequence and is 78 years behind the Gregorian calendar. The Saka calendar is of Indian origin where the day is celebrated as Ugadi on the very same date.
Nyepi is by far the most anticipated holiday in Bali while it’s traditionally the time when families meet and gather and celebrate this special occasion together. You can pretty much compare it to Songkran in Thailand or Christmas.
Typically, the rituals start three days before with colourful processions where villagers showcase their fantastic artwork of mythical figures known as Ogoh-Ogoh. 1-2 months before Nyepi, locals – mostly younger ones- start creating these figures in their local Banjar (meeting hall) and put countless hours of sweat and work in only to eventually burn them. It is believed that these demon-like figures catch and carry bad spirits.
Is really everything completely shut down in Bali? Well, almost. While the airport is (as well shops, malls, markets, etc.), hotels and hospitals operate but at a low level. Speaking if you stay at a hotel during Nyepi, you have to follow and understand certain rules set by the hotel management such as keeping curtains closed, limited or no TV programs, early closing times of restaurants, gym, pool, no alcohol etc. Further exceptions are granted for ambulances and fire trucks responding to life-threatening situations.
Many expats, tourists and Indonesians from other islands take the chance to escape to neighbouring islands, like Lombok, the Gilis or Java. Others are so keen on experiencing Nyepi that they plan their holiday far ahead.
When is Nyepi celebrated? The exact dates vary as they depend on the lunar calendar, but Nyepi is usually celebrated in March. This year, Nyepi is celebrated on 9th March while in 2017 it’s celebrated on 28th March.
Kian & Sri Radojewski