On Nyepi day, the Balinese take part in ‘Catur Bratha Penyepian’ which means no working, no entertainment or pleasure, no lights or fires, and for some, no eating or talking at all for 24 hours.
In short, everyone on the island is supposed to…. Do nothing!
Even Denpasar Airport is closed and all flights are grounded for the period of 6am to 6am the following day. The silence is policed by members of the Pecalang (traditional security men) from the local Banjar (counsil) with punishments dished out for rule breakers, such as cleaning a temple or being made to sit still on a road for 5 hours.
The days leading up to Nyepi are charged with anticipation for the locals. You will see the Balinese busying themselves with preparations of offerings for different ceremonies. Nyepi however is only the final ritualistic step of a series of ceremonies spanning 3-4 days.
Taur Kasanga is the name used officially for the series of rituals, with each one a particular communication with a particular god. Melasti is the first of these ceremonies. Perhaps as foreigners to the Balinese culture, it’s extremely hard to imagine that an island that bustles every other day of the year could fall completely silent, hence why we focus more on the day of Nyepi. For the inherently spiritual Balinese, Nyepi and the surrounding ceremonies are a source of delight. It’s an opportunity to cleanse the body, mind, and soul with meditation and fasting, and to show gratitude to mother earth by allowing her to take a breather.
The Ogoh Ogoh parade is not to be missed if you are visiting the island over Taur Kasanga. Ogoh Ogoh are mythological demons made of papier mache. The children of each Banjar create an Ogoh Ogoh each year, to be paraded along with the Ogoh Ogoh of other Banjars, accompanied with traditional music. The Ogoh Ogoh, which can be up to 5m in height are paraded with gusto and animation to scare away the evil spirits. They often represent the ugly components of society and are burnt to ashes as a show of purification after the parade. Any fan of theatrics and culture would be thrilled to catch the parade. Munggu outside of Canggu and Teuku Umar Simpang Enam and Puputan in Denpasar stage the biggest and best parades.
Fun fact; the Ogoh Ogoh parade was only first celebrated in 1983, unlike Nyepi which has been celebrated for centuries which is amazing proof that Balinese religion and culture has not been diluted by Western influence!
If you are in Bali (and also Nusa Lembongan, Nusa Penida, or Nusa Ceningan) this March 17th, here are some tips from us!
- Make sure you get to an Ogoh Ogoh parade. The most spectacular parades are in Munggu, Teuku Umar Simpang Enam and Puputan in Denpasar. Don’t forget to take a camera to capture once-in-a-lifetime snaps!
- We recommend that you find comfortable accommodation with a nice pool and food service, as you will be allowed to roam within a resort or hotel (many hotels and resorts do special discounted or all-inclusive Nyepi packages!). Make sure you check in as early as possible the day before to avoid traffic from road closures for the Ogoh Ogoh parade.
- Prepare plenty of snacks and drinks, books, magazines and activities like card games. Take the opportunity for stargazing after dark, Bali has never been so sparkly! Enjoy the fresh, clean air early the morning after.
- As a non-Balinese, you are not obligated to follow all rules of abstinence, however keep the noise down during the day and ensure your curtains are closed at night so no light can escape. Otherwise you might find yourself enrolled in a temple clean!
- Have you considered doing as the Balinese do? You are welcome to take part in ‘Catur Bratha Penyepian’ or abstinence. Rest, practice gratitude for beautiful Bali and give your full attention to your family
- If taking a lay day during your trip isn’t on your agenda, you can boat to the Gili Islands or fly or boat to Lombok, Bali’s Islamic neighbour. Bali is the only Hindu part of Indonesia, and therefore the only place where Nyepi takes place
***If you are in Bali for Nyepi, remember to book your accommodation in advance. Make sure the place you are staying at has excellent facilities to keep you entertained throughout Nyepi. Check out our recommendations below for some great Nyepi 2018 packages and special offers.