This year it was on 25 March , and for the first time in a long time you could hear yourself thinking. There were no scooters zooming by, no noodle sellers peddling their wares, not even the occasional sound of a plane flying overhead.
In their absence, you noticed the hum of a dragonfly and the thigh of a frog as you sat quietly on your porch, trying to get into the spirit of Nyepi – the island’s New Year’s Day or “Quiet Day” – when for 24 hours the Balinese stayed quiet in their homes and reflect on the past year and prepare for the one to come.
It is a Hindu celebration mainly celebrated in Bali, Indonesia. Nyepi, a public holiday in Indonesia, is a day of silence, fasting and meditation for the Balinese. The day following Nyepi is also celebrated as New Year’s Day. On this day, the youth of Bali in the village of Sesetan in South Bali practice the ceremony of Omed-omedan or ‘The Kissing Ritual’ to celebrate the new year. The same day is celebrated in India as Ugadi.
Nyepi is Balinese Hindus’ festival of silence. Everything is deserted, human footprint on nature minimized, only emergency services centers work.
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, limited access to Internet 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 and tourists are not exempt from the restrictions. Although they are 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 vehicles responding to life-threatening conditions and women about to give birth.
Tawur Kesanga, a ritual procession on the eve of Nyepi, celebrated a day before. The children carry flame torches, that lit bonfires to symbolically burn ogoh ogoh monster evil spirits
On the day after Nyepi, known as Ngembak Geni (Relighting the Fire), social activity picks up again quickly, as families and friends gather to ask forgiveness from one another, and to perform certain religious rituals together. Fires and electricity are allowed again, and cooking of food resumes. It’s the oldest ritual celebrated in human history.
Kecak dance performed by many male dancers.
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