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Bali Stories: The Day Before Silence

Credit: Theo Widarto

Credit: Theo Widarto

The Day of Silence, is a very unique holiday in Bali where you are not allowed to leave your house, nor have electricity on for a good 24 hours, starting from 6 a.m . to 6 a.m . the next morning. On this day, the Balinese pray, while fasting and also practices meditation in their solitude or together with their families. Others are also expected to indulge in quietness in their homes. The only people seen outside during the 24 hours are the Pecalang, which is the Balinese traditional security; the main purpose is to patrol around the streets and neighborhood ensuring people follow the Nyepi restrictions, and also to assist residents needing help. Emergency services such as hospitals and ambulance are also exempted from these restrictions.

Many people flee Bali to avoid the pitch darkness of Nyepi, while others truly appreciate the beauty of it. Nyepi is definitely a treat for those who love experiencing the richness of Bali’s cultural assets. For bonus point, due to the island’s state of almost total blackout, the stars at night appear brighter, bigger; as if the Gods poured glitter all over the sky. For the love of Bali, if you happen to be on the island during this holiday, stay for this experience of a lifetime.

Nyepi isn’t just celebrated by quietness and meditation in the dark, but also a ritualistic ceremony called Ngerupuk. This tradition involves each Banjar (Village) going through a lengthy preparation of creating enormous demonic looking paper mache statues called Ogoh-Ogoh. They people of each Banjar donate money to buy the supplies for this Ogoh-Ogoh, while the chosen youth gathers to build it day in, day out until it is ready to be presented for the day before the day of silence. The Ogoh-Ogoh would then be paraded, compete against, and then in the end they set it on fire in the middle of a field.

This ceremony symbolizes the riddance of all things evil. From bad energy to evil that dwells in our lives, as well as the negative influences of the demon Gods or Buta Kala. All Balinese also clean their homes and their yards as an act of clearing their homes from the bad, while welcoming the good.

Ogoh-ogoh in the making.

Ogoh-ogoh in the making.

The art of creating said Ogoh-Ogoh is quite a complex and meticulous process. Starting with building a pad made of wooden planks and bamboos, then adding frames of the statue which is also made of bamboo. This frame is then filled with foam and sometimes crumpled recycled newspaper to add weight and support. Once it is stable they add paper mache to complete the detailed shape of the demon statue. The final step is painting it. It takes about one to two month to finish the project, during which time you would absolutely spot Ogoh-Ogoh in progress if you drive through any Banjar in Bali.

The evening parade of Ngerupuk is always very lively, in which roads are closed in respect to the ceremony. Find your own state of divine with the sight of giant demon dolls on fire, followed by complete silence and starry night.

Out goes evil, in comes the good.
Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti.

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