It's a month after my last post. I know, I'm sorry. I am working full time now and all my time for writing has just whoosh disappeared. But I'm back and promise you will post every week! I'm more settled now and all better with my time management!
Have you been to Bali during Nyepi (silent day)?
It surely the most unique experience in Bali. It’s Bali’s most anticipated event of the year, it’s their New Years! Nyepi day in Bali is surely an event unlike anywhere else in the world. Balinese celebrated their new year exactly the opposite as anywhere else. Forget fireworks or sippin champagne, on this new year celebration you wont be able to leave the house, or even turn on a lamp!
It is surely a day that you have to take note of because there is just lots to prepare before the day. There are 4 days for the whole event, with the biggest being Nyepi.
Each year the date changes slightly.
Here are the dates for this year
March 25th 2017: Melasti Pilgrimages (3 days before Nyepi)
March 26th 2017: Pengerupukan (Ogoh-ogoh festival)
March 28th 2017: Nyepi (The Day of Silence, New Years Day)
March 29th 2017: Gembak Geni (The Day after Nyepi) & Omed-Omedan (Festival of Kisses)
What? Festival of kisses? Bali has so many traditions that I never knew before moving here, despite being Indonesian!
Let me start with the earliest celebration!
Melati ceremony is the biggest Bali Purification Ritual involving almost every Balinese Hindu in the island. They parade Hindu’s God Symbols procession to the sea. It is held 3 days before Nyepi Day. This sole purpose of this ceremony is to clean the human body and entire earth from the bad spirits. Hundreds of Balinese people will travel from all over the island to the beach. Expect hundreds of Balinese people crowding the beaches wearing their beautiful almost all white uniform, with banners and offerings. There are people playing music too, serenading the ritual.
It was so spiritual and peaceful, something to look forward to if you are visiting Bali. If you do plan on watching the Melati ceremony at the beach, please mind that this is a religious ceremony and remember to be respectful. Don’t disturb their prayer and certainly don’t LITTER! Bali has a serious problem with littering and it’s surely one of the things that bothers me most. Locals will be happy to explain you about their ceremony, but surely ask them when they are free!
From weeks before Ogoh-ogoh festival, expect giant statues on almost every area in Bali. These statues are called ogoh-ogoh, and is basically statues of demons and evil spirits. Mythical creatures such as dragons or monsters with fangs and multiple hands are commonly seen. These sculptures are created by the local youth community in the area, each night after coming home from their daily jobs, the youth will gather at the local area to design and create them by hand. No ogoh-ogoh are bought, all are proudly created by hand. At the ogoh-ogoh festival, each district has a competition for the best handmade sculpture. Everywhere you go, streets are filled with hundreds of dancers, music players, and local men and boys carrying these statues proudly. It is a night like no other in Bali. Ogoh-ogoh represents spiritual pollutants emitted from the activities of humans and living beings. At the end these statues are burnt and thrown away to the sea. So on Balinese New Years Eve, the island is burning all evil spirits to greet the new year. Expect the parade to start around 7pm. If you are wondering where to go: Legian, Petitenget and Puputan Park Denpasar. But almost all areas in Bali have Ogoh-ogoh parade, just ask the locals around you! The people at your hotel or villa will definitely help you on the parade route around you.
One incredible thing happened to me on this night. Years ago, I’ve lived in Bali before and heard stories regarding this festival. It is the most spiritual festival in Bali, hence it is rumoured that a lot of people are possessed at this day. I never believed it until I saw it with my own eyes. I was on the walking on the sideways of Legian street enjoying the Ogoh-ogoh parade when a group of calang (Balinese traditional police) came in the opposite direction of me. They were around 15cm away from me and said “permisi permisi” which means excuse me. As it was crowded I did not expect anything apart from them wanted to walk to the other direction. When I looked closely, the calangs are holding a possessed female Balinese dancer. If you know Balinese traditional dance, the dancers eyes moved rapidly from left to right. This Balinese dancer was carried by the calangs, and she was moving her eyes rapidly while smiling and dancing. Yes. She couldn't stop dancing. I had goosebumps when I saw this, I was speechless. I still remember her expression and movement. It was frightening but somehow mesmerising.
Taken on a self timer at my balcony.
This is the main day. It is the Balinese (Hindu) New Years. But instead of celebrating it on the streets, you do the exact opposite: stay out of the streets. From 6am in the morning, you will be forbid to go outside your house, do any activity or turn on any lights. Callang or Balinese traditional police will go around the area, to make sure no noise, activity or lights are on for 24 hours. Yes, there no restaurants, shops, malls opened on this day. Even the airport is closed. The only Balinese use this day to meditate and just dedicate the first day of the year to connect with God through prayer and fasting. They commit the day to self introspection and plant positive personal values such love, truth, patience, kindness and generosity.
So what do you do for a whole 24 hours? Gather with your loved ones! Get cozy in your bed and just enjoy the serenity of the day! Read that book you’ve been dying to finish. or do a movie marathon with an earphone and minimum brightness (be sure to close the curtain and ensure no lights are seen from outside). When it’s 7pm and the sun is completely out, go see the sky and prepared to be mesmerised by the stars.
With no light pollution from the whole island, Bali’s sky is the most beautiful of the year. I swear the picture does not do justice. I couldn't believe my eyes. I’ve seen the Northern Lights in Iceland, but this is more beautiful. Be aware of the Milky Way, it could be seen on this holy day as well!
Source: on the photo
Take notice that some hotels have authorisation to keep the lights on. If you don’t feel comfortable dozing of for a day, stay at the bigger hotel chains and while you are not able to go outside the hotel, you are still able to turn on lights and resume daily activities.
Tips for Nyepi:
- Stock some food! Remember that you will not be able to eat out or order anything, so go to the supermarket the day before! Supermarkets will be busier than ever too! Food and water is a must!
Plan ahead. Don’t make any travel arrangements, or even travel ahead to reach your desired destination before Nyepi.
Bring your camera with you!! You would not want to miss this moment to capture the most beautiful sky ever. Get hold of a tripod! Cause theres no way you’ll be able to stay still for 10 seconds or more to take the desired picture.
If you plan on staying at the hotel, remember that you will have to stay for a minimum of 2 days. That is to check in a day before Nyepi and check out a day after.
Find a place where you’ll have a great view of the sky and not covered of any buildings or roof. Believe me, you’ll thank me later.
The day after Nyepi (The Kissing Festival)
After 24 full hours of the island shutting down, Bali reopened again. It’s a new year! It’s hard to explain but you’ll feel somehow reborn after Nyepi. It’s as if you have just gone to get a body massage. You’ll feel relaxed and ready to start the day. The day after Nyepi is referred to as ‘Ngembak Geni’. If you head to Sesetan in Southern Denpasar in the afternoon, you’ll experience one of the most unique festival ever, it’s called Omed-omedan or roughly known as the ‘festival of smooches’. Yes, on this day, unmarried youths are gathered to the street where they will be kissing one another! And their surroundings will splashed and sprayed water to the youths! This ritual has been dated from the 17th century.
It is believed the king at the time (King Oka), was sick at the palace, Unable to find his healer, he went to the street to find his healer. Much to his surprised, he finds his city was gathering in the centre recreating this scene. To his surprise, he was healed instantly. Since that day, he ordered the residents to keep this tradition every year after Nyepi.
Although I did not attend because I need to go to work, it is definitely on top of my to do list and something that I look forward to next year. Anywhos I gathered some pictures from the internet to show you! Disclaimer, I do not own the pictures for Melasti and The Kissing festival :)
I solemnly swear to post more frequently after today :p
Any question about Nyepi or anything? Send me an email!
All photos are taken by @irwin.putra and I unless sourced by Fujifilm XA-3.