For the Balinese, there is more to New Year than that, but as a tourist, Bali day of silence Eve and Bali day of silence day will be the parts of the “celebrations” you are most likely to experience. Well, if you are in Bali at the time of Nyepi you will have to put in a serious effort to not experience both Nyepi Eve and Day.
The short version of Nyepi is that Nyepi Eve is about creating a spectacle to attract the Evil spirits to Bali. When the spirits arrive, at around sunrise the next morning, everybody is hiding and being quiet, so the spirits finds nothing of interest and leave until next year.
Nyepi Eve starts around sunset with Ngrupuk parades. The main attractions of the parades are the Ogoh Ogohs – huge colorful figures of demons – that will be carried or driven around every town and village in Bali. The center of the parade is the town or village’s main crossroad and the parade will usually be accompanied by music, fireworks and bamboo bombs, making it quite a sight and something you do not want to miss if you have the opportunity.
The parade ends before midnight with the burning of the Ogog Ogohs as a symbol of getting rid of the evil spirits. If you stay out past midnight, be sure to get back home before well before sunset, as a taxis or scooter rides are hard to find as sunset approaches.
After Nyepi Eve comes Nyepi day – the day of silence – and the Balinese takes that very seriously. Pecalangs – traditional security men – will be on the streets, making sure the streets are empty as no traffic is allowed, not even pedestrian. Even Denpasar airport will be closed down for the entire day – I don’t think you see that anywhere else in the world.
In the houses, where everybody is supposed to stay, activities and light should be kept to a minimum and TV broadcasting is usually shut down for the day. So far the Internet has been working on Nyepi day, but many speculate that it’s only a matter of time before the Internet also will be included in the shutdown.
If you stay in a hotel, the rules are usually less strict inside the hotels premises, but even as a tourist you are expected to stay on the hotel grounds. Some hotels even have special Nyepi arrangements.
THE IDEAS BEHIND THE SYMBOLIC RITUALS
While researching about Nyepi we came across a rather succinct description from Wiki which touches on the philosophy of Nyepi and how it is generally practised in today’s Bali. Not one to ‘reinvent the wheel’ we quote below from the said Wiki article:
“.. Nyepi is a Balinese ”Day of Silence” that is commemorated every Isaawarsa (Saka new year) according to the Balinese calendar (in 2013, it fell on March 12nd). It is a Hindu celebration mainly celebrated in Bali, Indonesia. Nyepi, a Government holiday in Indonesia, is a day of silence, fasting and meditation for the Balinese. The day following Nyepi is also celebrated as New year.
Observed from 6 a.m. until 6 a.m. the next morning, Nyepi is a day reserved for self-reflection and as such, 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 traveling; and for some, no talking or eating at all. The effect of these prohibitions is that Bali’s usually bustling streets and roads are empty, there is little or no noise from TVs and radios, and few signs of activity are seen even inside homes. The only people to be seen outdoors are the Pecalang, traditional security men who patrol the streets to ensure the prohibitions are being followed.