Balinese Hindu uses two-calender system. One is Pawukon system, a 210-day cycle that divided into ten separate week system. The other one is Saka Calendar, a lunar calendar that originally from South India and brought to Indonesia around 465 AD. One Saka year has 12 month and each month ends on a new moon. The Saka Year is 78 years behind the Gregorian calendar. The calendar begins on the first day of the 10th lunar month or ends on the new moon of 9th month.
It usually falls on March or April on Gregorian Calendar. To mark the New Saka Year, Balinese celebrates a Nyepi Day. The main purpose of the Nyepi Day ceremonies is to pray to the God (Hyang Widhi Wasa), wish that HE to clean the universe (bhuwana agung) as well as the ‘universe” within men (bhuwana alit). Based on the history of its birth of Saka Year, Nyepi Day also means to be a momentum to increase genuine solidarity and tolerance between people, accept the differences and similarity as natural factor of life and put them in a balance proportion so they can be in a positive side of life. We do not to fight each other because our differences.
HOLY DAYS RELATED TO NYEPI
Mekiis or Melis or Melasti as part of Nyepi Day.
On this day the effigies of God (‘pratima’) and temple accessories of each village will be brought in a long and colorful procession to the beach or water spring or river accompanied by gamelan orchestra and followed by all villagers dress in traditional temple clothes. This interesting occasion is usually hold three day or four days before the Nyepi Day. Once they get into the beach than there will be a communal prayer toward the ocean.
After the rites in the beach finish, the procession is heading back the village and the effigies of God as well as temple accessories will be placed in one of the village temple, Pura Desa. Several communal prayers will also be held until the last evening before the Nyepi day. The philosophy of this particular Melasti rite to Balinese is to cleanse all impure things of human as well as the universe and to take the essences of life from the ocean. Ocean is the symbol of life itself that consistently consist of happiness and sadness. Within those happiness and sadness, we can find the essence of life.
Tawur Kesanga and Caru, sacrifice rites before Nyepi Day
Tawur Kesanga and Caru are sacrifice rituals that hold one day before the Nyepi Day. Different levels of sacrifice are held for village, district, regency and provinces by sacrificing chickens, duck, dog, goat to the biggest one cow or bull. Many kind of plants are also use as part of the offerings. By using those animal and plants on the ritual, Balinese are motivated to preserve the existence of those animal and plants.
Balinese are encouraged to raise the animal and to grow the plant, otherwise they would not be able to perform their ritual activities and lost their source of life. The ceremony itself usually held in crossroad of village or village around noon. For the house compound a smaller rites also held in family temple and series of offering will be offered in the front gate of each house. The whole member of family will perform a prayer called ‘mabyakala prayascita’ to neutralize to bad force (bhutha) within themselves.
On the same day on sunset time around 5 or 6 PM there will an event called Pengrupukan. Family member will walking around their compound bringing fire torch and make a lot of noise by kulkul (traditional bamboo bell). For village level, villagers will also held a procession with the fire torch and kulkul. Since 1980 this procession also include procession of Ogoh-Ogoh, a giant monster doll, in the form of demon characters as symbol of evil (bhuta).
The doll mainly made of bamboo and cement sacks. Before the procession, a ceremony is perform to invite spirits occupy the Ogoh-Ogoh and after the procession another ceremony is held to neutralize the spirits by symbolically burn or actually burn the Ogoh-ogoh. This spirit is believed as spirit of evil (bhuta) that may become the disturbance for human and the universe and they will be always part of human and universe.
The purpose of the overall ceremony that held on this day are to neutralize the bad force / spirit (bhuta) so it is not any longer becomes disturbance but instead become positive force for the good of human and universe. However, for this year, they will be no Ogoh-Ogoh parade in most part of Bali (perhaps all part of Bali). This decision were made during the meeting between government and police of Bali, Balinese Hindu priests and head of village communities due to the political campaign period.
There is suspicion that the Ogoh-Ogoh parade which mainly involving young crowd may be used for unexpected political interest. Based on religious point of view, the priests ensure that the non-existing of Ogoh-Ogoh will not decrease the essential meaning of the Nyepi celebration.
The Nyepi Day, the silence day
On the first day of the New Year after the noisy night a silence and quite day is perform. Nyepi derive from ‘sepi’ means silence. The activities in all over the Bali island is stopped for 24 hours. There are four mandatory religious prohibitions called Catur Brata Penyepian that should be followed by common Hindu people in Bali. The prohibitions include amati geni or no fire, amati karya or no work, amati lelanguan or no entertainment and pleasure, and amati lelungan or no travelling.
These prohibitions help people to control their five earthy senses by mind and wisdom in order to increase the quality of life for the upcoming year. For people with higher spiritual ability or willing to have higher spiritual life are expected to perform further prohibitions include fasting by not eating or drinking, stay still by not talking, meditating by focusing the mind to the God and praying.
Ngembak Geni, a day of forgiveness.
The anti-climax of the Nyepi day is on the following day, which is called Ngembak Geni where people share happiness by visiting their relatives and friend. The new year is started by forgiving each other and forget the hate in the past year and work together to face the challenge of the New Year. Only a simple ritual rite is performed within the house compound for this day. However, various cakes will be made to welcome the visit of relatives and friends.
Practical Info for visitors
To witness the Melasti procession, it is best to be around the beach either in Kuta, Seminyak, Nusa Dua, Sanur and others. Ask people at your hotel which part of the beach that usually use for the Melasti near by your hotel and when they usually held the procession. If you happen already on the road and see people dress in white and yellow on a parade, just follow them. Please dress properly with sarong, sash and shirt.
Should you are on the beach sunbathing with your bikini and the procession pass by you please kindly change your bikini with proper cloth or stay away for a while. It is just too much contrast, you with your bikini sunbathing, and one meter away Balinese with traditional cloth perform a serious religious ceremony. Most likely each village will make at least one Ogoh-ogoh, the giant doll, and this particular thing will amazed you a lot.
Do drive around in the morning of the day before Nyepi when the Ogoh-Ogoh will usually placed side of the road. It is a great picture time for the scary face of the Ogoh-Ogoh. The actual procession of the Ogoh-Ogoh will be held around sunset so make sure you come back with your vehicle before that if you do not want to get stuck behind the procession. It is wiser and easier to witness the procession near by your hotel by foot. In some main town like Sanur, Kuta, Denpasar, Ubud and others, there are contest for the best Ogoh-Ogoh. .
Should you be in Bali or first arrive in Bali on the juncture of Nyepi Day, you must take the subsequent orders into account:
The silence begins at 5 a.m. of March 21st and the next 24 hours.The airport will be totally closed on March 21st, so there will be neither arrival nor departure in the airport on that day. All connecting airports around the globe have been informed about it in advance. If you take surface trip, you should not plan your arrival in Bali on March 21st, there is no activity in the bus terminal and most importantly there will be no traffic on that day in the whole Bali Island.
You should stay inside your house/hotel. Do not go out of the house/hotel. Should you need food or anything to buy, do it on the previous day because on Nyepi Day all shops do not open. Since all activities throughout the island are paused during the Nyepi Day, put your plan before or ahead. Should you want to make a light or play the music, keep it minimum, no light and sounds are allowed.Don’t make any noise while you are at home/hotel.
There will be local officer on duty to ensure everybody including visitors obey the prohibitions. Some exceptional are made only for hospital, emergency situation and family with very young babies. If you experience any emergency situation please report to the hotel staff or manager on duty to obtain proper permission.