Today we’re catching up with Agness from eTramping, about Nyepi, also known as the Balinese Day of Silence. Unlike most trips to Bali, this one won’t include a visit to one of the island’s incredible beaches, or a chance to taste some of the island’s great restaurant cuisine. Instead, it will be more or less as the name of the festival implies: silent.
But silence doesn’t mean boring, and there’s always Nyepi Eve (the exact opposite). Luckily for you, here’s a rundown of the festival, how the locals celebrate it, and how you can get involved.
What’s so special about the Balinese Day of Silence?
Image yourself in the middle of one of the world’s busiest and most visited tourist destinations, yet you can’t hear a thing (almost). That’s Nyepi, the Hindu Day of Silence. On this, one of the most sacred and important religious festivals in Bali, everything stands still. Airports close, vehicles aren’t allowed to take to the streets, you can’t buy anything from shops. Even restaurants close for the day and access to Bali’s famous beaches is prohibited.
One of the reasons they do this because they believe that by cutting out the hustle and bustle of everyday life, they can connect with their environment on a deeper and more spiritual level. Those who have traveled to Bali during the festival note that it’s a rare occurrence to find yourself escaping from the normal hustle and bustle of everyday life, and thoroughly recommend it.
A festival about hiding from demons
Whilst the locals believe that the festival brings them closer to their environment, there is reputedly another reason for celebrating Nyepi; hiding from demons.
The Eve is all about waking all the demons up and then having a big party with them. Nyepi is about staying as silent as possible to trick the demons into thinking that Bali is a deserted and uninhabited island. For the locals, it’s hoped that this will bore the demons into leaving their unexciting island behind.
When is it?
Which date the Balinese Day of Silence falls on is always calculated based on the Balinese calendar. Festivities begin a few days before the Lunar New Year, and continue until the second day of the new year. This year (2017) saw the festival land on Tuesday, 28th March, next year it will move up to Wednesday, 9th March, and in 2019, you can expect it to fall on Friday, 7th March. Whilst Nyepi’s actual Day of Silence occurs on this date, festivities start before.
What if you don’t follow the rules?
Whilst over 90 percent of the local Balinese are Hindu, there are always those who don’t follow the rules. It’s apparently rare, but it does happen. Whilst links into the island are shut and it’s harder for tourists to make it in, there are sometimes one or two confused holidaymakers wondering why all the shops, restaurants and beaches are closed.
In order to make sure that everything is in order, special policemen known as Pecalang are positioned around the island. They make sure to reprimand anyone seen making too much noise and disturbing the festival for everyone else.
Of course, in order to remain so quiet for a whole day, everyone needs some time to prepare. For the locals, this is what’s known as Nyepi Eve; an opportunity to get all their noise-making desires out of their system before the big event itself starts.
Nyepi Eve: the ‘Day of Great Sacrifices’
If Nyepi itself is about keeping as quiet as possible, then the Balinese Day of Silence’s Eve is the exact opposite. Known as the ‘Day of Great Sacrifices’, locals take to the street to make as much noise and sound as humanly possible.
People can be seen banging pots and pans, lighting and setting off firecrackers, and generally making as much of a raucous atmosphere as possible. This is when you should be heading into town to deliver gifts to the ogoh-ogoh, giant monster-esque dolls with protruding eyes and long, pointed fingers. If these are of particular interest for you, Kuta and Denpasar are the areas with the most ogoh-ogohs.
After the ogoh-ogoh have received enough gifts, they’ll then be lifted onto bamboo poles and carried throughout town in a grand procession known as Ngrupuk. These festivities will usually continue until late. The next morning at 6am, Nyepi: the Balinese Day of Silence, will begin.
Visiting temples during Nyepi
Nyepi is a great chance to view authentic Hindu rituals at any of Bali’s many temples (known locally as Pura). Locals will head to them several days in advance to give gifts and offer sacrifices. It’s easy to take part, just head along like you would on any normal day. If you want to head to one on the day of silence itself, just make sure that you’re quiet about it.
If you’re in the area 3-4 days before the festival, make sure to visit one of the island’s many temples to witness the Melasti Ritual. Here, several sacred objects known as Arca, Pratima, and Pralingga will be purified. Tanah Lot, one of the most fantastic and beautiful temples on the island, is one of the temples to take part in the Melasti Ritual each year.
Nothing to worry about
Don’t worry, many things might be shut during the Balinese Day of Silence, but the hotels sure aren’t, especially the 5 star hotels. The local government understands the attraction of the festival for some. Most hotels on the island have special arrangements. Many of them will stay in operation during the festival. However, it’s always a good idea to call ahead and confirm before you book.
Most of the necessities will be available from your hotel (including food!) and some of the rules regarding the need for silence are somewhat nullified in hotel premises. This being said, the locals do expect a certain level of respect during the festival. Don’t expect to get away with blasting music at full volume from your hotel room window.
Do you think you could stay quiet for the whole day?