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Home » Religion

Nyepi: A Silent Celebration  

by on Wednesday, 21 March 2012One Comment | 4,869 views

Friday, 23/03/2012, early in the morning, the island of Bali will be blanketed with silence. Nyepi, Balinese New Year is celebrated with day of silence, fasting, and meditation.  Observed from 6 a.m. until 6 a.m. the next morning, Nyepi is a day reserved for contemplation and as such, anything that might interfere with that purpose is restricted. The main restrictions are Amati Geni (no lighting fires); Amati Karya (no working); Amati Lelanguan (no entertainment or pleasure); and Amati Lelungan (no traveling); and for some, no talking or eating at all. Prohibition against lighting fires includes the use of light bulb and electricity, but there is an exception for those who sick or if there is an infant in a family, a minimum light is allowed. However, the emergency services such as hospitals are operational. Exceptions are granted for emergency vehicles carrying those with life-threatening conditions and women about to give birth and the pecalang, traditional security force will open roads and assist people to a hospital in emergencies.


On this day, bustling streets and roads are empty, normally busy markets lie dormant, and schools stand vacant, harbors shut down and ferries cease arrivals and departures from the island, the only airport in Bali remains closed for the entire day, there is little or no noise from TVs and radios, and few signs of activity are seen even inside homes. The only people to be seen outdoors are the pecalangs who patrol the streets to ensure the prohibitions are being followed.

Although Nyepi is a Hindu holiday, non-Hindu residents of Bali observe the day of silence as well, out of respect for their fellow citizens. Even tourists are not exempt; although free to do as they wish inside their hotels, no one is allowed onto the beaches or streets.

Why a new year is celebrated with silence and contemplation? According to Balinese folklore, on this sacred day, after the eve’s festivities and rituals, the evil spirit is drove away from heaven by God. They are homeless now. They seek vengeance on those who drove them from paradise. These angry evil spirits roam the heavens seeking a new home in the world. The evil spirits take to the sky, their eyes wide open looking down at earth, especially Bali. However, they see nothing on the island because Balinese people do nothing on Nyepi and stay in their homes. The spirits think Bali is empty of people because there is no human activity. When they have seen enough, they fly off and Bali is safe for another year.

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