Selamat Hari Raya Nyepi Tahun Baru Suci 1936 Saka
(Happy Nyepi Day, Holy Saka New Year 1936)
Most of you probably didn’t know that the Balinese follow several different calendars, and for one of these their new year started on March 31 this year. This calendar is based on the phases of the moon and is approximately the same length as our calendar, though it is 78 years behind, so happy 1936!
New Year’s Eve is celebrated with the fantastic Ogoh Ogoh Parade, followed by Nyepi on New Year’s Day – the day of silence. Nyepi is a unique and special day that we felt very fortunate to experience. It reminded us of Earth Hour which was held just a couple of days earlier, but on a bigger scale. Here in Bali, it is Earth 24 hrs!
For the Balinese
Nyepi is a day for self-reflection, and anything that might interfere with that purpose is restricted. The main restrictions are no lighting fires (and lights must be kept low); no working; no entertainment or pleasure; no travelling; and, for some, fasting and no talking. All homes are kept dark and quiet, and nobody is allowed out.
Tourists and other non-Balinese follow the rules of Nyepi as much as they can out of respect for the local customs and religious beliefs. For the tourists at the big resort hotels, life can continue much as usual, they are just required to stay within the confines of the hotel.
We were stuck within our villa compound, but able to roam the grounds and go swimming. We tried keeping noise to a minimum but that was very difficult with three young ones. Luckily we are a little removed from our Balinese neighbours, so hopefully, we did not disturb their peace. Although it was not really peaceful and quiet in our house, we tried, and it was great to feel part of this Balinese tradition.
It is an amazing transformation for Bali, there are not many places in the world that the whole island closes down, including the airport. It must be a huge cost to the economy, which shows how important it is for them. The usually busy streets are empty, but nobody can get to see that as they are hidden away.
The images below were taken from official live traffic cameras. The left image shows the eerily quiet streets during Nyepi. I have contrasted it with the usual heavy traffic we found on the same road the next day.
If you don’t follow the rules, there are traditional security men, called Pecalang, who patrol the streets to ensure that the rules are being followed. Who would not want to embrace this tradition, a chance to switch off, relax and reflect?