Nyepi comes from the word ‘sepi’ which means silent. The purpose of the Nyepi celebration is self-purification and universe-purification. That’s why during the Nyepi day in Bali, people are staying at home, doing self-reflection, praying, contemplating and fasting. There are also some rules that must be followed by all people in Bali.
The month of March brings Nyepi – the day of silence throughout the whole of Bali. In the Balinese lunar calendar (Saka), Nyepi is New Year’s Day. It is a day wholly dedicated to rest, staying in, turning off the lights and keeping quiet for 24 hours. It is one of the biggest and most unique ceremonies of the year, where staying in and resting is enforced by law. It is practiced island-wide where the Balinese dedicate an entire day to introspection and spiritual cleansing. No businesses are open, no transport is allowed on the roads (except for emergency services) the airport even shuts down for 24 hours. Nyepi is a sacred day to give the island a break from 364 days of human activity, so Bali can replenish and recharge for the new year.
Nyepi is a 6-day long festival, the ‘silent’ day falls on day 3 and is the most important and sacred Hindu holiday in Bali. It is also a public holiday for the rest of Indonesia.
Before ‘the silence’, highlight rituals essentially start with colorful processions. Pilgrims from various village temples all over Bali bring heirlooms on long walks towards the coastlines where elaborate purification ceremonies take place. It is one of the best times to capture the iconic Balinese processions in motion, as parasols, banners and small effigies offer a cultural spectacle.
The famous ogoh-ogoh parade takes place across the island. Large scary creatures depicting evil spirits and monsters are made as a village group effort for weeks leading up to the ogoh-ogoh parade. Balinese men and boys carry the large handmade creatures through the streets accompanied by gamelan music. There is an island-wide demonstration of the ogoh-ogoh monsters which are paraded and shaken to attract evil spirits from the island to the ogoh-ogohs. The ogoh-ogoh monsters are then destroyed or burnt at the end of the parade to get rid of the evil spirits and cleanse the island from evil in preparation for the new year. There are huge parades on streets throughout Bali, it is a unique and colorful spectacle to watch.
Starting from sunrise to sunrise on the following day, everyone across the island stays in their family compounds or hotels for the day of silence, the entire island is essentially “closed”. During Nyepi, there are no cars on the street, no TV’s or loud music, no lamps or fires. To ensure that all the rules are obeyed, local watchmen called the Pecalang are deployed all over the island. This is the only place in the world where the government will shut down an airport for meditation and introspection! The roads and beaches are off limits to all types of motorized vehicles and people on foot. While indoors, the inhabitants must ensure that all audio devices are turned down to a minimum volume. As the day draws to an end and the sun sets, curtains need to be drawn shut, with minimum light being used.
The most surprising fact about Nyepi is it reducing approximately 20.000 tons of Carbon Dioxide. Due to the rule of Nyepi that forbid people from outside which is known as Amati Lelungan. The local securities called Pecalang will patrol all day long to make sure no one is going out.
People are also forbidden to work which is known as Amati Karya. The rules are valid for 24 hours, starts from 6.00 AM in the morning until 6.00 AM in the following day. That’s why no vehicle’s activities all day long on the road like bicycles, motorbikes, cars, planes, etc. By reducing the carbon dioxide it saves the planet from global warming.
Another rule of Nyepi Day is Amati Geni which means no light and fires. No one is allowed to turn on their lamps and stoves. Therefore, Bali saves equal to 290 megawatts and worth approximately 4 billion Rupiah.
People usually stop cooking and doing other activities at 6 a.m and back to their activities the following day at 6 a.m. Another unique fact about Nyepi that may shock you is there will be no TV/radio broadcast all day long. There is no entertainment in any form.