Nyepi: New Years Day , a Balinese Hindu holiday of quiet and introspection

Ogoh-ogoh monster- JK photo

Community, culture, and religion are extremely important to the Balinese- JK photo

In Ubud, Bali, at the beginning of this month (March 2011), Barry and Johnny got to experience Nyepi the annual Bali day to mark the beginning of the Hindu Lunar New Year.

As it was explained to us, the Balinese are to do nothing to “feed” evil; they are to fast, be quiet, reflect—and burn the spirit statues they’ve made symbolically to rid the island of evil.  No planes are allowed to fly to or leave the island.   People are to be quiet and calm.

The Balinese spend weeks preparing the ogoh-ogohs

The whole Balinese community gets involved.

The monsters are colorful and creative

As our friend Joy writes, “Funny how we never hear about such lovely traditions. I want to see the demon statues!   Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have such a day, state or nation wide, instead of, for example, give-up-smoking day or in addition to Valentine’s Day?  I guess we’ll have to do it individually . . . , but Hawaii is the perfect place–a day spent in the garden, or writing letters, or reading and visiting with family members.  My, I’m up for it!”

The monsters are also scary-jk photo

The parades and rituals also look fun–jk photo


From the New York Times : http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/07/world/asia/07indonesia.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all


Introspective Silence Befalls Bali, but Only for a Day


Nepeti police: “pecalang” who enforce the quiet

Kemal Jufri for The New York Times

Balinese security guards, called pecalang, helped enforce silence in Kuta on Saturday.

Published: March 6, 2011

KUTA, Indonesia — The resort island of Bali fell quiet over the weekend as the authorities shut down its airport and seaports, and switched off all radio and television transmissions. Its streets, normally jammed with tourists, were deserted as security guards patrolled the island, ensuring that locals and foreigners alike stayed indoors, and even exhorting them to turn off their lights.


·                                 U.S. Updates the Brand It Promotes in Indonesia (March 6, 2011)

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Bali, a Hindu island that has the weather and plants of Maui

The New York Times

Kuta, a rowdy Bali beach resort, lost its usual din.

The authorities closed down Bali not to stamp down on political unrest, but to mark the annual Day of Silence, a Balinese Hindu holiday called Nyepi that ushers in the New Year. For a full 24 hours starting at 6 a.m. Saturday, Balinese Hindus were urged to remain silent and engage in introspection. Bali, which first became known as a destination among hippies from the West a couple of generations ago, tuned in and dropped out, at least for the day.

“Have a quiet time! Enjoy the silent day!” Wayan Sutama, 51, a traditional security guard called a pecalang, called out to a group of potentially unquiet Australians gathered on a terrace overlooking the beach here. With a half-wary smile, he flashed them a thumbs-up.

In Kuta, a rowdy beach resort on the southern tip of the island, only roosters and pigeons, usually drowned out by the din, could be heard Saturday. The pecalang peered down side streets in search of transgressors but found only other pecalang looking back, or the occasional stray cat.

As the last redoubt of Hinduism in Indonesia, the nation with the world’s largest Muslim population, the island of Bali has been attracting increasing numbers of outsiders in recent years, thanks to its booming tourism industry. While Hollywood romanticized Bali in the recent movie “Eat Pray Love,” Indonesians, mostly Muslims from the islands of Java and Sumatra, have been gravitating here looking for jobs. The tension between local tradition and outside forces is perhaps at its most intense in Kuta, where Islamic extremists bombed a nightclub in 2002, killing 202 people, and bombed three restaurants in 2005, killing more than 20 people.

In reaction, officials in Bali have been reinforcing local customs, especially those of Nyepi. Three years ago, they began sealing off Bali from the rest of Indonesia for 24 hours after tour organizers were caught smuggling in tourists on the Day of Silence as part of “Nyepi packages.” At the same time, the authorities banned radio and television and, last year, extended the ban to all satellite transmissions.

“The lesson from the Bali bombings was to return to our traditions and not be too influenced by outsiders,” Mr. Sutama said Saturday. He and another pecalang, Nengah Renda, 51, spoke as they faced a memorial for the bombing victims on Kuta’s main commercial strip; behind them, a lingerie shop called 69Slam featured an image of a woman with a man on all fours attached to a dog leash.

The day before, in one of the many local temples squeezed between shops in Kuta, the residents of a neighborhood called Pande Mas had been putting the final touches on their ogoh-ogohs, effigies 20 feet tall representing evil spirits that would be burned later. “After chasing away the evil spirits, we have Nyepi to purify our minds, to reflect on what we did in the past year and to engage in introspection,” said Made Mastra, 52, the neighborhood chief. “Then we will be clean to enter the new year.”

Neighborhood boys, who can often be seen rubbing shoulders on Kuta’s streets with Australian, Asian and European tourists, were required to make their own ogoh-ogohs. On Saturday, a group of boys, led by Wayan Putra Setiaman, 14, said they would obediently stay home, not daring to step outside lest they be caught by the pecalang.

They would not be allowed to use their television sets.

“But we can send SMSs to our friends as long as we’re quiet?” he said, zeroing in on a subject under debate among the pecalang.

How about video games?

“Yes,” he said.

“No!” said another boy, Wayan Wima Putra, 10, said, tapping the older boy across the chest.

“No,” the older boy corrected himself, explaining that videogames connected to television sets were forbidden but that portable ones were O.K.

Even as Bali has reinforced its traditions, some outsiders said it had lost a bit of its legendary openness. Ucok, 41, the manager of a tattoo shop who moved to Bali from Sumatra 15 years ago, said he and other Muslims felt a little “discrimination.”

“Since the bombing, the locals are more suspicious toward Muslims,” Ucok said, adding that outsiders would nonetheless keep coming here. “Bali is like sugar. Ants come to it.”

Made Darsana, 59, the deputy chief of one of Kuta’s three subdistricts, said outsiders were occupying an increasingly larger share of the population.

On Saturday, Mr. Darsana and a dozen pecalang were taking a break from their patrol at a temple where they quietly shared fried rice. Mr. Darsana, who spoke English with an unmistakably American accent, said he learned English about 40 years ago from an American Indian named Joe. Joe was among the hippies who discovered Bali, back when Kuta had perhaps a single guesthouse, Mr. Darsana said. “Life isn’t about material things, about tall buildings,” he said. “It’s about being one with the world. That’s the core teaching of Hinduism. I didn’t know this when I was younger. You learn these things as you live. Been there, done that.”

With development and the influx of outsiders, Bali’s environment has been irreparably damaged, he said. Outsiders now owned almost all the major businesses in Kuta.

“It’s sad,” Mr. Darsana said. “We now have only our culture.”

His smile and constant cheerfulness, though, belied his expression of loss. Despite the Day of Silence, Mr. Darsana grew increasingly loquacious as he reminisced about his hippie youth — hanging out with Joe, mastering the surfboard as well as the bong, taking a three-day drive all the way to Jakarta. “And my girlfriend was in the back,” he added, to roars of approval from the subdistrict chief as the other pecalang nearby immediately chided him in unison, “Shhhh!”

Sheepishly, Mr. Darsana mentioned that, at night, he himself would make sure that his neighbors turned off any electric lights or candles. “It’s going to be like Kuta in the 1960s,” he said. After a long pause and perhaps some memories left unmentioned, he added. “Been there, done that.”

A version of this article appeared in print on March 7, 2011, on page A10 of the New York edition.

Connect with The New York Times

from: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/07/world/asia/07indonesia.html


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Ogoh-ogoh statues

Ogoh-ogoh being paraded in Ngrupuk or The Bhuta Yajna Ritual.

Nyepi is a Balinese “Day of Silence” that is commemorated every Isakawarsa (Saka new year) according to Bali’s calendar (in 2011, it will be on March 5th). It is a day of silence, fasting, and meditation. The day following Nyepi is also celebrated as New year.[1][2]

Observed from 6 a.m. until 6 a.m. the next morning, Nyepi is a day reserved for self-reflection and as such, anything that might interfere with that purpose is restricted. The main restrictions are: no lighting fires (and lights must be kept low); no working; no entertainment or pleasure; no traveling; and for some, no talking or eating at all. The effect of these prohibitions is that Bali’s usually bustling streets and roads are empty, there is little or no noise from TVs and radios, and few signs of activity are seen even inside homes. The only people to be seen outdoors are the Pecalang, traditional security men who patrol the streets to ensure the prohibitions are being followed.

Although Nyepi is primarily a Hindu holiday, non-Hindu residents of Bali observe the day of silence as well, out of respect for their fellow citizens. Even tourists are not exempt; although free to do as they wish inside their hotels, no one is allowed onto the beaches or streets, and the only airport in Bali remains closed for the entire day. The only exceptions granted are for emergency vehiclescarrying those with life-threatening conditions and women about to give birth.

On the day after Nyepi, known as Ngembak Geni, social activity picks up again quickly, as families and friends gather to ask forgiveness from one another, and to perform certain religious rituals together.


  • First, The Melasti Ritual is performed at the 3-4 previous day. It is dedicated to Sanghyang Widhi Wasa and is performed at the beach to respect them as the owner of The Land and Sea. The ritual performed in Pura (Balinese temple) near the sea (Pura Segara) and meant to purify Arca, Pratima, and Pralingga (sacred objects) belongs to several temples, also to acquire sacred water from the sea.
  • Second, The Bhuta Yajna Ritual is performed in order to vanquish the negative elements and create balance with God, Mankind, and Nature. The ritual also meant to appease Batara Kala by Pecaruan offering. Devout Hindu Balinese villages usually make ogoh-ogoh, demonic statues made of bamboo and paper symbolizing negative elements or malevolent spirits. After the ogoh-ogoh have been paraded around the village, the Ngrupuk ritual takes place, which involves burning the ogoh-ogoh.
  • Third, The Nyepi Rituals is performed with the following conditions:
    • Amati Geni: No fire/light, including no electricity
    • Amati Karya: No working
    • Amati Lelunganan: No travelling
    • Amati Lelanguan: Fasting and no revelry/self-entertainment
  • Fourth, The Yoga/Brata Ritual starts at 6:00 AM (e.g. March 26, 2009) and continues to 6:00 AM the next day.
  • Fifth, The Ngebak Agni/Labuh Brata Ritual is performed for all Hindus to forgive each other and to welcome the new days to come.
  • Sixth and finally, The Dharma Shanti Rituals is performed as the Nyepi Day or “Day of Silence.”


  1. ^ Hogue, Thomas (2006-03-24). “In Bali, a holiday for the ears”The New York Times (New YorkNYTC). ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2011-03-07.
  2. ^ Onishi, Norimitsu (2011-03-06). “Silence Befalls Bali, but Only for a Day”The New York Times (New YorkNYTC). ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2011-03-07.

External links

Begone evil

spirits–jk photo

After reading these articles and seeing  the photos, perhaps you too will want to send on their way any of the “evil spirits” that touch your life.

Photos by Johnny Kristel


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About reneeriley

Our blog was begun as a way to share our experiences in China. From August 2010 to July 2011, my husband, Barry Kristel, and I were at our University of Hawaii Maui College sister school, Zhejiang Agriculture and Forestry University in Lin'an, China, a city considered rural because it has only 500,000 people! We had a wonderful time. Then in February 2012, we returned to teach this time at our other sister school, Shanghai Normal University, in a city of over 21 million people. We've made many discoveries. Did you know that now Chinese girls, at least the ones who go to university, for the most part feel they are luckier than the Chinese boys? Did you know that Shanghai saved over 20,000 European Jews during WWII? Do you know how Chinese university students would deal with problems that come up in Dear Abby letters? What's it like to be on the Great Wall of China? Do you know how many Chinese girls had their feet bound and why? And we have recipes from many of the places we've visited. Among others, you can find instructions on how to fry cicadas from one of my ZAFU students and how to make chocolate-Kahlua waffles from my brother Mike in Gainesville. You can also look back to our earliest entry to see what we experienced in Oaxaca, Mexico, in 2006 during the mainly peaceful six months of protest until the Mexican government sent in the troops. Between our stays in China, Barry and I have been on the Mainland U.S. visiting family, friends and Servas hosts as we traveled home to Maui. We share those experiences too. Welcome to our blog! Aloha and Zài Jiàn, Renée and Barry

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