The Ceremony of Silence – Balinese Nyepi Day
For those of you that missed it, Nyepi has recently passed in Bali. The period of silence is a unique holy observance for the Hindu Balinese and it is an event, or non-event, that I have experienced on a number of occasions. If you have never heard of Nyepi the following is brief overview of the religious occasion it’s origins and it’s meaning.
Westerners celebrate the New Year with parties and fireworks; however in contrast, the Balinese open their New Year in silence. This is called Nyepi, the Balinese period of Silence which falls on the day following the dark moon of the spring equinox.
The following You-tube Video shows the intensity of Balinese stabbing and trance ceremony Melasti, a seaside purification ceremony that is undertaken to welcome in Nyepi, the Balinese Hindu ‘Day of Silence’ and New Year.
Nyepi Day, as it is commonly referred to, runs for twenty four hours and opens a new year of the Saka Hindu Era. During this period of silence everything on Bali shuts down including the international airport.
Nyepi is celebrated to help keep the balance of good and evil positive and negative in nature. It is based on the religious belief of King Kaniska of India who was inaugurated in 78 A.D.
During his reign he conducted a missionary tour to Java Indonesia to promote and spread Hinduism. But the King was also famous for his wisdom and he was celebrated for his tolerance of both Hinduism and Buddhism.
Balinese Hindus have a number of religious celebrations but Nyepi is perhaps the most important. The guidelines for the twenty four hours of complete silence are taken seriously, particularly in villages outside of Bali’s southern tourist belt.
From the religious and philosophy point of view, Nyepi is meant to be a day of self-introspection to contemplate on the values of humanity, love, patience and kindness.
Hotels are partially exempt from Nyepi’s rigorous practice of silence but streets outside are closed to both pedestrians and vehicles. (Except for emergency vehicles) Temple guardians Pecalang are also posted outside to keep people and their houses safe.
The strict observance of Nyepi demands both silence and darkness for 24-hours during the period sunrise to sunrise the following day.
Summarized, the four tenets for Nyepi are as follows.
* Amati geni – Do not ignite fires or turn on lights.
*Amati Karya – Refrain from all activity and rest.
*Amati lelungan – Stay at home with family and loved ones and do not embark on trips or journeys.
*Amati lelanguan – Do not satisfy any lusts or engage in other pleasurable pursuits.
Nyepi forms a large part of Bali’s mystique and it is just another occasion that helps make Bali unique island. Summarized below are the four tenets for Nyepi.
Note: I would have liked to include a few pictures of the Agoh-Agoh for this article but it is considered bad luck to take or display pictures of the Mystical Creatures.
Recently I have seen a number of these Papier-mâché effigies for sale around Bali. The artistic work is incredible, but it is sad that a part of the tradition is starting to be ignored in the pursuit of money.