Hari Raya Nyepi or Silent Day In Bali 2012 – The True Earth Day and Ogoh Ogoh Parade

Last week I was having my holiday in Bali with my fellow photographer friends. At first we do not have anything planned and we so happen to be lucky enough to join the celebration of Nyepi Day. Recently we started to celebrate Earth Hour where we off our lights for 1 hour. But after experiencing Nyepi Day in Bali, that is nothing. The whole Bali were totally shutdown including TV Station, airport, no lights allowed and total blackout. To know more read further.

Nyepi is a Balinese “Day of Silence” that is commemorated every Isaawarsa (Saka new year) according to the Balinese calendar (in 2012, it fell on March 23rd). It is a day of silence, fasting, and meditation. The day following Nyepi is also celebrated as New year.

It started from 6 a.m. until 6 a.m. the next morning, Nyepi is a day reserved for self-reflection and as such, anything that might interfere with that purpose is restricted. The main restrictions are: no lighting fires (and lights must be kept low); no working; no entertainment or pleasure; no traveling; and for some, no talking or eating at all. Even in the hotel, at 6pm the staff start knocking the guests room door and came in with the notice of the Nyepi day. They then start to switch off the main lights in our room and keep the lights minimum. All the thick curtains were used to ensure no stray lights getting out from our room. At 7pm I take a peep out and the whole hotel and street were pitch black. Not even a stray light can be seen.

The effect of these prohibitions is that Bali’s usually bustling streets and roads are empty, there is little or no noise from TVs and radios, and few signs of activity are seen even inside homes. The only people to be seen outdoors are the Pecalang, traditional security men who patrol the streets to ensure the prohibitions are being followed.

Although Nyepi is primarily a Hindu holiday, non-Hindu residents of Bali observe the day of silence as well, out of respect for their fellow citizens. Even tourists are not exempt; although free to do as they wish inside their hotels, no one is allowed onto the beaches or streets, and the only airport in Bali remains closed for the entire day. The only exceptions granted are for emergency vehicles carrying those with life-threatening conditions and women about to give birth.

On the day after Nyepi, known as Ngembak Geni, social activity picks up again quickly, as families and friends gather to ask forgiveness from one another, and to perform certain religious rituals together.

Ogoh-ogoh are statues built for the Ngrupuk parade, which takes place on the eve of Nyepi day in Bali, Indonesia. Ogoh-ogoh normally have form of mythological beings, mostly demons. As with many creative endeavours based on Balinese Hinduism, the creation of Ogoh-ogoh represents spiritual aims inspired by Hindu philosophy.

The main purpose of the making of Ogoh-ogoh is the purification of the natural environment of any spiritual pollutants emitted from the activities of living beings (especially humans). The forms of Ogoh-ogoh represent the Bhuta-Kala (Bhuta: eternal energy, Kala: eternal time), according to Hindu teachings. The imperceptible potentials of nature cannot be thoroughly explored by anyone. Philosophically, civilized men are required to manage the natural resources without damaging the environment itself.

According to my friend who were the local tour guide, the best place to see the best Ogoh Ogoh is in Denpasar City, Catur Muka.

All the Ogoh Ogoh displayed here infact are on a competition to see whose built the best. They measure base on the story line, built quality and look of it. All the ogoh ogoh were funded by donations from the village they are representing from.

Aside from being the symbol of Bhuta-Kala, Ogoh-ogoh is considered a symbol of modes of nature that form the malicious characters of living beings. Ogoh-ogoh are usually made by the group of artists found in villages around Bali.

After being paraded on a convoy around the town, finally it is burnt to ashes in a cemetery as a symbol of self-purification.

An Ogoh-ogoh is normally standing on a pad built of timber planks and bamboos. The pad is designed to sustain the Ogoh-ogoh while it is being lifted and carried around the village or the town square. There are normally eight or more men carrying the Ogoh-ogoh on their shoulders. This procession is accompanied by orchestral music performed by the youth. The use of flares is also a main part of the parade.

During the procession, the Ogoh-ogoh is rotated counter-clockwise three times. This act is done at every T-junction and crossroad of the village. Rotating the effigies during the cremational parade and the eve of Nyepi represents the contact of the bodies with the spirits. It is intended to bewilder the evil spirits so that they go away and cease harming human beings.

Traditional Balinese Drum

The Ogoh-ogoh is a very recent addition to the Nyepi ceromonies, first appearing in Denpasar in the early 1980s. At that time, they were carefully monitored for any criticism of the Suharto regime.

* Notes to other tourist. If you decided to watch this ceremony like I do, I would recommend you to contact your hotel to arrange for transport to pick you up. To reach Catur Muka, Denpasar City also already cause the local hesitating to go in. It is very jam and hard to come out after the ceremony. They were worried that they can’t make it to reach home to celebrate nyepi day with their family members. Me and my travelmates were walking for few KM to reach the main road but still no luck of getting a taxi. Even a call to Blue Bird local taxi station doesn’t help as there are no drivers available. We end up hitch the police bike to get back to the hotel.

Full set photos : http://www.flickr.com/photos/foodpoi/sets/72157629341992490/

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