From Melasti to Ngembak Geni
Every religion or culture all over the world has its own way to define and celebrate their New Year. The same thing also occurs in Bali, however the Balinese commence this occasion with a 24 hour period of silence. This is called Nyepi, which falls on the day following the dark moon of the spring equinox. It is a day to make and keep the balance of nature.
The lead up to Nyepi day (usually three days prior) involves the Melasti or Melis ceremony. This is essentially a ritual cleansing rite where all the effigies of the Gods (Pratima) from all the village temples are taken to the river or sea in long and colourful parades to be purified by the waters.
Exactly one day before Nyepi, all villages in Bali hold a large exorcism ceremony (Tawur Agung Kesanga) at the main village cross-road, which is believed to be the meeting place of demons. The community usually makes Ogoh Ogoh (large monster effigies) that symbolizes the evil spirits that exist within our environment. Noisy processions of these effigies take place just after sunset and are held all over Bali – called Ngrupuk. Every Hindu household will also hold a small, boisterous ceremony by clanging tin pots and burning torches to eliminate the presence of evil spirits and their disturbing forces.
On Nyepi day itself, the streets are quiet. No traffic is allowed, not only cars but also people. Everyone is required to stay indoors. Light is kept to a minimum or not at all, the radio or TV is turned down and, of course, no one works. The whole day is simply filled with the barking of a few dogs, the shrill of insect and is a simple and quiet day on the calendar of this otherwise hectic island.
Ngembak Geni is the day following Nyepi where Balinese Hindu’s usually visit family and friends to forgive each other for past wrongdoings. From a religious and philosophical point of view, Nyepi is meant to be a day of self introspection to decide on values such as humanity, tolerance love, patience and kindness.
Balinese Hindu’s have many different sacred occasions, but Nyepi is perhaps the most important religious date. It is taken very seriously, particularly in villages outside of Bali’s southern tourist belt. Hotels are exempt from Nyepi’s rigorous practices but streets outside will be closed to both pedestrians and vehicles (except for emergency vehicles) and village wardens will be posted to keep people off the beach. Nyepi day is just one cultural element that makes Bali such a unique island.
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