All About Nyepi in Bali – Welcoming a New Year in Silence

NYEPI IN BALI

(This year, Silent Day is practiced on the 22 March 2023)

Nyepi, also known as “Silent Day” marks the beginning of the Saka – the Balinese New Year. It is a most important and sacred time in Bali. For 24 hours (6am- 6am) the whole island shuts down – no noise, no lights, no work, no fires, no entertainment and no travelling. The calm and quiet it delivers provides a wonderful space for self-reflection, deeper spiritual connections as well as a time to consider the year that has passed and ponder the one to come. 

Ceremonies to celebrate Nyepi span over many days with rituals being carried out before – Melasti & Ogoh Ogoh, and after silent day – Ngembak Geni & Omed Omedan.

Are you visiting the island during this special time of year? Lucky you!! It’s a wonderful time to experience the unique & enchanting beauty of this island and it’s people. Here’s all you need to know about the Rituals, Ceremonies and Celebrations of Balinese New Year. 

Purification ceremony Bali, Melasti Nyepi
Image by Jakarta Post

Melasti

Day 1 - Purification Day

The Balinese New Year celebrations kick off with Melasti, a few days before Nyepi. It is the largest and most sacred purification ceremony of the year. The iconic processions involves scores of devoted Balinese Hindu’s dressed in white clothing carrying bright coloured umbrellas, sacred ornaments, statues & offerings. Departing from villages and temples, they walk to beaches, lakes, major rivers or holy springs where the cleansing ritual begins.

Melasti literally means to drift away the impurities and the ceremony symbolises purification from Bhuana Alit (small world – the human body and soul) and Bhuana Agung (the entire universe) from the bad spirits. It is held by the sea or water source because in Hinduism sources of water are believed to be the the source of life – “Tirta Amerta“. It really is a beautiful sight to see. 

Ogoh Ogoh

Day 2 - The Night before

The night before Nyepi is quite literally, the storm before the calm. Bali’s streets and villages bustle to life with loud music, banging drums, flaming fires, endless swarms of people and of course, the iconic Ogoh Ogoh. These giant demonic statues (which can take weeks, even months to create) symbolise evil spirits, demons, witches and ghosts. The grotesque, and sometimes comical, Ogoh Ogoh are carried through the streets in a spectacular parade before being ceremoniously burned.

The goal of the Ogoh Ogoh parade is to make as much noise as possible to attract and entice evil spirits to the island. However by the time they arrive to the island to wreak havoc on the inhabitants below, silent day is in full swing, thus cleverly fooling the evil spirits into believing the island is deserted. Nothing and no-one here! And so, the evil forces continue on their way, leaving the island cleaned and free of evil sprits for the year to come.

Our Tip: Do not miss this spectacular display of Balinese culture, colour and noise. Be sure to check our the incredible parades which are held in village streets and centres. Here in our local Pecatu village, it’s always an incredible show! Also note that many roads close in the afternoon of Ogoh Ogoh day, so plan any travel for the morning.

*This year’s Ogoh Ogoh will be on the 22nd March 2023. Be sure to check out our local festivities in desa Pecatu! 

Nyepi

Day 3 - 'Day of Silence'

The day after Ogoh Ogoh is our favourite day of the year – Nyepi. On this day the whole island shuts down for 24 hours and Balinese Hindu’s dedicate their day to praying, meditating and reflecting on the year that has passed and pondering the year to come. For the most devout it will include no speaking, eating or drinking.

The silence begins at 6:00am and continues for the next 24 hours. During this time Bali disconnects from the outside world, adhering to the Nyepi prohibitions of Amati Geni (no fire, light or electricity), Amati Karya (no working), Amati Lelunganan (no travelling), Amati Leanguan (Fasting and no entertainment). This means:

  • Everyone must stay on their property or accomodation for the 24 hours. Going outside is prohibited. 
  •  Be quiet –  No one other than those in your private space should hear you. No noisy appliances, TV, speakers, blenders etc.
  • Turn off the lights. The use of low lighting with curtains closed to navigate your way around is ok.
 
Every village has local law enforcement  (Pecalang) who will patrol the streets to ensure that no one leaves their accommodation. If you do there are heavy fines. The only exceptions are given to emergency services & hospitals. If you are a visitor to the island, please respect the rules. 
 
*This year’s Nyepi falls on the 23 March 2033.

Does everyone have to take part? Even tourists?

Absolutely! A successful Nyepi relies on the whole island and everyone, even visitors, must observe this day. Tourists and non-hindu’s are all required to follow the rules and respect this special time.  

So, grab a book, laze poolside and relax in the pure bliss of a delightfully silent Bali. As the sun goes down and darkness engulfs the island, be sure to look up – with no light pollution, WOW oh WOW, the stars are truly a magnificent sight to see.

Tip for visitors – Many hotels and accommodations have Nyepi packages that include accommodation and meals. Staying in a villa with no staff? Best to stock up on your favourite snacks and necessities a few days prior (supermarket is crazy the day before with last minute shoppers and many items sold out). 

(shutterstock.com/olegd)

Ngembak Geni

& the Days After Nyepi

On the day after Nyepi people awake from their stillness to begin a new day and New Year. Being a holiday most shops & restaurants are closed. The following day Balinese Hindus loaded with pajegan, canang & banten (types of offerings with fruit, snacks, sweets flowers, incence and sometimes money and cigarettes) will visit their families, neighbours to exchange forgiveness to one another. It’s a time to contemplate tolerance, kindness and compassion for others. 

Omed Omedan

The Omed-Omedan ceremony – aka The Kissing Ritual – also falls on the day after Nyepi. This tradition is purely for the younger generation (17-30 year olds) and held specifically in Sesetan village in south Denpasar. After group prayers participants are divided into male and female groups facing one another. As they get closer, boys will pull the girls in for a kiss whilst onlookers throw buckets of water over them. The tradition is said to symbolise the push-and-pull forces between positive and negative elements. It’s also become a popular place for singles. If you’re in the area it’s a fun ritual to witness. 

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