Can you imagine anywhere in the world where for 24 hours the entire population is required to stay home, be quiet and use no electric lights?
Here in Bali each year for one day, Nyepi, that is exactly what happens.
In complete contrast, on the evening before Nyepi giant Ogoh Ogoh are paraded on the streets with much noise, excitement and commotion. These effigies are so frightening and scarey that any evil spirits that might be lurking around are so spooked that they all flee Bali. the next day in silence and darkness the evils are unable to find their way back home again and thereby have to search for a new home leaving Bali evil free…. …
Sometimes weeks, even months can go by and its easy to get caught up in the hum drum of ‘life as normal’ forgetting that I live on the exotic and magical Island of Bali.
This morning, though, I woke to the sound of Gamelon and the reminder that Bali is a land where the connection to the Gods and spirits are part of daily life for Balinese people. Wandering onto the street in front of my house this morning I sat and witnessed about an hour of Bali culture as a huge procession passed by. Today is Melasti day of purification when offerings are taken to the ocean . Not a day for tourists to be taking a driving tour of Bali, streets all over Bali will be filled with thousands of families taking part in these processions and traffic will be at a stand still.
3 more important ceremonies will take place over the next few weeks, but the most unusual and dramatic of all happens next week.
On Monday night Ogoh Ogoh are paraded through the streets, with much noise and excitement. These huge scary effigies have taken months to make and are spectacular. Their job is to scare away any evil spirits.
The following day Bali is quiet and dark, the evil spirits are confused, they cant see or hear anything here so they leave, Bali is now safe – for another year…
On Nyepi, the silent day, everyone is required to stay at home, you may not go onto the street, work, make noise or use electricity, including lights. The airport is even closed as the lsland falls into silence and in the evening no lights are turned on so the island is also in total darkness. The chaos and madness that you normally associate with Bali are gone and peace decends on this island of the Gods… for one day of the year !
This year Nyepi falls on my Birthday, so I will not be celebrating this year, I will stay home and be quiet and sit in the dark like the Balinese. Perhaps as the evils leave Bali they will also leave me alone and I will have an evil free year, I can only hope !
Its Galungan time again. Bali is at its most pretty during this festive holiday and people travel home to their villages for one of the most important ceremonies in the Bali calendar.
My friend and I traveled to Candi Dasa in east Bali to hang out in our favorite secluded beach spot…
A spontaneous decision to go to Ubud for the day on Saturday was rewarded by running into a huge cremation ceremony. Now this may sound morbid, but actually the Balinese have a very complex and sacred process to send their loved ones on their way and a cremation is always an amazing, spectacular and vibrant affair.
It costs a lot of money for a cremation and so often families wait until an auspicious day in the Bali calendar and have a group cremation with families sharing the costs. Several years ago I was lucky enough to be at a royal cremation, also in Ubud, at this ceremony hundreds of cremations happened on the same day .
Bodies are usually temporarily buried for different lengths of time, often years, waiting for an appropriate date in the Balinese calendar. Bodies are placed in the funeral pyre which is a decorated man made bull. These are then paraded in the street with several men carrying them on bamboo platforms on their shoulders. On the way there is much noise , running around in circles and water being sprayed. They are taken to the cremation area to be burned. The ashes are then gathered and taken to either a river or the ocean.
This morning my motor bike is being decorated and blessed. In the Balinese calender, today is ‘ Tumpek Landep ‘ – the day to give thanks to Sang Hyang Pasupati, The God who gave metal to Mankind.
All metal objects are blessed today from cars and motorbikes, farm equipment and tools to kitchen utensils, computers and cameras.
On the outskirts of Ubud, Bali, on a typically chaotic street, motorists come to a respectful halt while a procession of women carrying large fruit offerings make their way to the temple.