Why Nyepi is my favorite holiday in Bali
What, Nyepi? (pronounced as nn-yeh-pee) I can hear you think; Don’t you mean napping? Well, no but I did do a fair bit of napping during this years Nyepi, but that aside. So what’s Nyepi exactly?
Let me talk you through some facts about this Balinese holiday that you probably never even heard of if you haven’t visited the island.
Nyepi is a Hindu celebration also known as the Balinese “Day of Silence” that is commemorated every Isakawarsa (Saka new year) according to the Balinese calendar.
It’s a day of silence, fasting, and meditation for the Balinese Hindus.
The Balinese take this holiday very seriously. During the 24 hours of Nyepi, nobody is allowed to leave their house or hotel.
No lights are allowed (hotels shield their windows), shops and stores are closed as there is no working, no making of noise, no entertainment (no internet or phone connection) and, for some, no talking or eating at all.
The effect of these prohibitions is that during Nyepi, Bali’s usually bustling streets and roads are empty, there is no noise from motorbikes or cars that are passing. Even the airport is closed during these 24 hours of silence and reflection. You may hear a confused rooster crowing in a back alley and occasionally the street dogs bark as they always do.
The only people to be seen outdoors are the Pecalang, traditional security men who patrol the streets to ensure the prohibitions are being followed. And trust me, you do not want to get in trouble with them
Because the entire island is dark you basically can see the entire milky way and countless stars at night. It’s at Nyepi nights I’m reminded the most that I live on a tropical island when the only sounds are those of a far jungle echoing in the air.
In the week leading up to Nyepi, the energy on the island makes me a bit anxious. I can feel the air being filled with excitement and tension at the same time. It’s busy and there are several ceremonies all around the island.
The night before Nyepi the Balinese go out on the street for the Ngrupuk parade where they walk the streets and ritually turn around on every T-junction with their Ogoh-ogoh, which are self-made demonic statues meant to purify the natural environment of any spiritual pollutants emitted from the activities of living beings. The statues are usually burned after the parade.
Although all non-Hindus are free to do as they wish inside their hotels, and homes you have to keep quiet. So most people I know use this day to get together with friends enjoy some homemade food and relax.
I myself love to reserve this day for some self-reflection, be in silence with my thoughts, read some and write some.
This year I woke up with a fever and I ended up spending most of the day in bed sleeping. I did get up at some point, had some food, watched the stars while I could hear the sound of my own breathing before I went back to bed. It was suiting.
I never realized that the rituals and ceremonies following Nyepi day are also very interesting and just as important. Normally, the day after Nyepi social activities are picked up again quickly, and people, including myself, get back to their daily doings forgetting all about the ‘real’ Nyepi afters.
The day after Nyepi is called Ngembak Geni (Relighting the Fire). On this day families and friends gather to ask forgiveness from one another, and to perform certain religious rituals together.
Fires and electricity are allowed again, and cooking of food resumes. In the South part of Bali the youth practice the ceremony of Omed-omedan which is known as ‘The Kissing Ritual’. And that is basically what it says. They kiss to celebrate the new year.
Maybe it’s because this year I felt more present and alive on the next day I got to think about these rituals a bit more. Either way, I have some words that I need to get off my chest and I would like to send into the universe;
“May today be an open door to new and blissful times to come for everyone. May I be forgiven for all the hurt and aches cost by my actions or words during the past year and may I be blessed with a sweet soul next year to practice some serious Omed-Omedan with..”
As Ngembak Geni is all about forgiveness and relighting the fires, let’s kiss, make up and be good to eachother, okay?