Nyepi: Balinese Moon Calendar New Year – It’s 1936 (March 2014)
The late afternoon before Nyepi Day, March 31 this year, is very important in ridding the community of evil. K.C. and Dawn, new Big Island friends Barry had met at Nick’s Pension pool, and I went to see the local Ubud banjar Ogoh-Ogoh’s, the huge demonic statues figures symbolizing negative elements or malevolent spirits.
K.C. and Dawn:
Most of the Ogoh-ogohs had bodies of witches with heavy, powerful heads, hands, feet, and limbs. Loud gongs and cymbals, yells from the carriers, and torches when it got dark accompanied the fantastic effigies in the parade.
Even the littlest boys were involved in carrying the smaller monsters to the parade ground.
A little girl was tied to the leg of a huge blue monster. At night by yourself, you wouldn’t want to see any of those monsters, some with decapitated heads, some with forked tongues of snakes, huge clawed hands and feet, monstrous bodies, glowing eyes.
However as part of a group with the mission of ridding Bali of evil and fear, the event seemed fun for everyone.
Vendors sold drinks, noodles, and our choice – grilled sweet corn dipped in a chili/salt sauce – yummy. Dawn, KC, and I watched for about three hours the arrival of the monsters, the judging (we think), and then the parade back toward their respective banjars, local areas.
After the floats had left, the three of us found one of the few restaurants still open and had a good dinner at Wayan Café – that also offered precooked meals for the next day when no one was to cook. Then on our way back home, we passed the soccer field banjar temple and saw the hacking to pieces of the demons there. Traditionally the images have been burned, but now instead of just using bamboo and wood for their monsters, much of the body is of foam that would become toxic fumes if burned. Instead, the ones we saw were smashed, which is also effective! Firecrackers also helped get rid of those evil spirits.
K.C. on top of a felled monster:
Then Nyepi Day was from 6 a.m. March 31 to 6 a.m. on April 1. The Bali airport shut down for 24 hours as did the radio and T.V. stations, the ATMs, and all businesses. No one was to go in the streets; even hotel guests were to stay in their rooms. Vera House provided simple meals for us, but for the Balinese, the day is to be one of silence, fasting, and reflection.
I too tried being silent for the day and did pretty well except for a few slips of saying “uhh-hu” to Barry. I didn’t really miss talking and seemed to listen better than usual. On the morning of Nyepi Day, I woke to the chirps of cicadas and heard them at night too with the stars shining overhead. I could hear the occasional plop of a fish in Vera’s fishpond. No one at Nick’s seemed to have on electric lights. My day was peaceful. It seems that taking yourself away from the world diminishes your chances of being exposed to troubling things.
April 1, 2014, became the first day of the New Year in Bali’s lunar calendar. In Bali, it is now 1936! Nyepi is a chance to rebalance ourselves and a reminder that reflection and silence can be good for all of us.
Happy New Year.
Aloha and sampai jumpa (“see you soon”), Renée
P.S. Photos by RR