Balinese New Year like nowhere else in the world
The Melasti processions take place approximately three days prior to the Saka New Year or Nyepi, when pilgrims take heirlooms in long walks from temples towards the coastlines where purification rites take place. It is one of the best times to capture on camera the iconic Balinese processions in motion, as parasols, banners and small effigies offer a cultural spectacle.
Then on Pengrupukan – the eve before Nyepi – there are lots of celebrations and noise before the silent day. Celebrative commotion takes place in the afternoon, and grotesque ogoh-ogoh papier-mâché effigies are parad- ed throughout the streets in Bali. The eve- ning features lit fire torches, and sometimes firecrackers as well, meant to rid the land of evil spirits, to prepare for the subsequent si- lent and contemplative day that is Nyepi. The dolls of Ogoh-Ogoh are made for months and some are truly spectacular.
Nyepi Day in Bali is a New Year celebration unlike anywhere else on the planet. Bali’s celebrates the Saka New Year as the Bali Day of Silence, an ultimately quietest day of the year when all of the island’s inhabitants abide by a set of local rules, which brings all routine activities to a complete halt. The Balinese Hindus follow a ritual called the Catur Brata Penyepian, roughly the ‘Four Nyepi Prohibitions’. These include amati geni or ‘no fire’, amati lelungan or ‘no travel’, amati karya ‘no activity’, and amati lelanguan ‘no entertainment’.
Some consider it a time for total relaxation and contemplation, for others, a chance for Mother Nature to ‘reboot’ herself after 364 days of human pestering. Roads all over Bali are void of any traffic and nobody steps outside of their home. Most Balinese and visitors regard it as a much-anticipated occasion. Some expats and those coming from neighbouring islands prefer escaping Bali for the day, due to restrictions that surround the observance. But Nyepi is worth experiencing at least once in a lifetime. Just imagine how a starry night looks like when there are no lights to spoil it.
On the day after Nyepi, referred to as ‘Ngembak Geni’, you can head down to the village of Sesetan in southern Denpasar for the omed-omedan, roughly known as the ‘festival of kisses’. Youths take to the street as water is splashed and sprayed by villagers, and the highlight being two throngs of boys and girls, in a tug-of-war-like scene. Successive pairs in the middle are pushed to a kiss with each shove and push.■