Nyepi Day is the New Year in Bali according to an Hindu-animist tradition. Nyepi literally means silence, and this silence in Bali is transformed into one of the most outstanding celebration in the world. Nyepi is based on a South Indian calendar called Saka arrived in Indonesia in about 465AD, which is 78 years behind the Gregorian calendar. In Bali tomorrow they wish each other happy 1935!
However, these wishes will stay amongst the family and within the house walls, or made by phone. This is because in Bali on Nyepi day everyone, including non-Hindus, foreigners and visitors, stay at home without electricity and unable to cook or use public transport. Add to these restrictions the ban on lighting fires, on using any electric source, on having sex and on working, you can understand why Bali, the island that almost never stops, becomes incredibly quiet for 24 hours, with Nyepi night a totally dark affair.
The meaning of silence and abstention to leave home and be in the streets comes from the popular belief that malignant gods visit the island during Nyepi day. If they believe nobody is on the island, they leave for another year. In reality, the main purpose of Nyepi’s abstinences is to invite everyone to an introspection on personal values, and to pray to the Supreme God – Sang Hyang Widhi Wasa – so it keeps the world in harmony.
Nyepi in Bali is taken seriously; thousands of Pecalang, security agents in sarong, shirt and black hats, ensure that all adhere to the rules and that silence and the absence of people from the streets are observed, escorting offenders back home. In some areas of the island, discouraged authorities get so far as to impose the suspension of electric supply. Bali airport and various naval ports of the island are closed for 24 hours, and apart from tourist facilities and hospitals, the rest of the work activities closes its doors on Nyepy Day.
Melasti: Each village take divine images and small temples to a beach or to a river, accompanied by a Gamelan ensemble, in long and colorful processions that culminate in a prayer addressed to the ocean, and a wish to cleanse impurities of human beings and of the universe. These ceremonies are also intended to draw out the demons from the places where they hide. During these processions, animals are sacrificed, and some of the participants get ‘possessed’ by the demons driven out of their dens, and perform in spectacular shocking dances accompanied by shouts and movements from the audience.
Tawur Kesanga and Caru: During this ritual, that takes place the day before Nyepi, chickens, ducks, goats and sometimes cows and buffaloes are sacrificed. This symbolizes a search for protection from evil and from negative forces within humans and the universe. The ritual culminates in one of the biggest parades of Nyepi, the procession of Ogoh-Ogoh, giant puppets made of bamboo frames, canvas and papier-mache. The creation of these works of art that depict monstrous demons and evils painted in bright colors who kill and tear apart men, women and children, lasts weeks and is done by young artists from different villages. This ensures that the tradition continues within the new generations. The Ogoh-Ogoh generally take the form of mythological beings inspired by Hindu philosophy. These beings are characterized by a monstrous look, menacing fingers and fearful faces.
Ogoh-Ogoh carnival parades are held after sunset on the eve of Nyepi, at the crossroads of the main villages. These are the places where demons meet, and where priests perform their exorcisms. Here, groups of eight or more young people raise platforms made of bamboo and wood planks that support the Ogoh-Ogoh, and carry them around the village, turning them counterclockwise three times at each road crossing, thus making contact with evil spirits. To ward off these spirits, young people shout loudly: “megedi megedi!” (go away, go away!). Unrelenting music played by youth Gamelan ensembles complete with drums, cymbals and gongs accompany the ceremonies, and the use of rockets, firecrackers and fireworks is common during parades. Finally, in the late evening, the Ogoh-Ogoh are burned and their ashes taken to the cemeteries as a symbol of purification. In case these demons survive the night, it is believed that they leave anyway the next day, once the entire island is surrounded by total silence.
To know more about Nyepi, check http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nyepi