Nyepi is a Balinese beginning of a new year that is commemorated every Isakawarsa according to the Balinese calendar. It is a Hindu celebration mainly celebrated in Bali, Indonesia. Nyepi, a public holiday in Indonesia, is a day of silence, fasting and meditation for the Balinese. The day following Nyepi is also celebrated as New Year’s Day.
How Indian Gudi Padwa Which Became Nyepi in Indonesia is Celebrated
Influenced by western traditions, on this day, the youth of Bali practice the ceremony of Omed-omedan or ‘The Kissing Ritual’ to celebrate the new year. The same day is celebrated here in India as ugadi or Gudi Padwa but with different rituals.
Observed 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. 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.
How Common Hindus of Small Locality Celebrate Nyepi, Hindu New Year
There’s a small community of Hindus in Glanggang in Malang, East Java, getting ready to observe Nyepi, a symbol of cleansing and starting the new year afresh or as seen here as the Hindu Day of Silence, on Saturday by making giant ogoh-ogoh effigies. Even their mostly Muslim neighbors are getting in on the act.
Hindu youth only take part in processions so most of the Hindu rituals are performed by elders of the house. These elders are trying hard to keep the tradition alive for many years to come.
Sungkono, 52, is a Hindu striving to maintain his ancestral customs. “As religious followers, we certainly always strive to perform what we’ve been taught.”
The 52-year-old — a tempeh maker who lives in the hamlet of Karang Tengah — said the tradition dated to 1966, when ogoh-ogoh were as small as 50 centimeters.
After the government declared Nyepi a national holiday in 1983, larger versions began to surface. “We started crafting bigger ogoh-ogoh in the early 1990s,” he said.
Nyepi is typically preceded by a series of religious and cultural ceremonies that climax during the Tawur Agung Kesanga ceremony, when effigies and offerings are presented during a procession held the day before the holiday.
Ten families in the village have been busy making ogoh-ogoh, he said. Work typically starts a month before the big day. “It’s not difficult to build ogoh-ogoh, but as we do so during our spare time after work, we have to start early.”
The bamboo frame, one of his effigies under construction, could be seen on Sungkono’s terrace. Materials used to make the giant puppets include wood, bamboo, used newspaper and cement sacks, paint, glue and wire or plastic strings to fasten bamboo frames.
The style for effigies could be updated from year to year, he adds. “In this Internet age, we just need to find and choose the models posted online to find modifications.”
“An ogoh-ogoh represents Bhuta Kala, an ogre, which in Dharma Hindu teachings bears the evil traits of man,” Sungkono said.
Accordingly, only the most frightening figures are crafted. After a paraded, the effigies are burned to rid the world of evil spirits.
Sometimes the effigies take the form of animals, although Sungkono says models of animals useful to humans, such as horses or cows, are not allowed. “Even snakes are not used, because they eat rats in paddy fields,” he added.
The symbol of Nyepi are insects and animals those who harass people like Rats, flies or mosquitoes are the most popular options.
The minimum cost of an effigy is Rp 400,000, which goes to the team making it after the festivities.
“Normally there are five to eight people working together without earning money, but with meals and drink provided,” he said.
Sometimes even non-Hindus pitch in. “The essence of ogoh-ogoh is providing mutual assistance.”
While the Tawur Agung parade in the village always takes place at 8 p.m., roads are packed with eager residents and visitors starting in the afternoon.
“Non-Hindu residents are not bothered,” Sungkono said, “There’s positive synergy, because while watching our tradition, they can earn extra income from parking fees, the sale of food and beverages or children’s toys.”
Meanwhile, Sai, 40, a Hindu from nearby Karang Pandan village, also builds ogoh-ogoh.
Although people in Karang Tengah prepare effigies for their own use, Sai, a gas station worker, builds them to order.
“Usually I receive up to five ogoh-ogoh orders every year,” he said. According to Sai, effigies are priced according to size. A 2 m puppet carried by 4 to 6 people costs Rp 900,000 to Rp 1 million, while a 4 m puppet carried by 10 people can fetch up to 1.5 million.
A big effigy takes one to two weeks to get ready. As a rule, Sai takes orders starting two months ahead of Nyepi.
Two of his effigies can be seen during a visit, one of which takes the form of a giant with long hair tied. “This 2.5 m giant symbolizes the cunning character of Sengkuni,” he said, referring to the famous shadow-puppet character.
Like his neighbors, Sai builds these effigies on a mutual assistance basis. “We continue to maintain harmonious ties with other believers. We haven’t experienced any problems thus far, so thankfully Nyepi ceremonies have always run safely and smoothly.”
Unique Rituals of Celebrating Hindu New Year in Bali
First, The Melasti Ritual is performed 3–4 days beforehand. It is dedicated to Sanghyang Widhi Wasa. The ritual is performed in Pura (Balinese temple) near the sea (Pura Segara) and meant to purify Arca, Pratima, and Pralingga (sacred objects) belonging to several temples, also to acquire sacred water from the sea.
Second, The Bhuta Yajna Ritual is performed in order to vanquish the negative elements and create a balance with God, Mankind, and Nature. The ritual is also meant to appease Batara Kala by Pecaruan offering. Devout Hindu Balinese villages usually make ogoh-ogoh, demonic statues made of bamboo and paper symbolizing negative elements or malevolent spirits. After the ogoh-ogoh have been paraded around the village, the Ngrupuk ritual takes place, which involves burning the ogoh-ogoh.
Third, the Nyepi Rituals are performed as follows:
Amati Geni: No fire or light, including no electricity
Amati Karya: No working
Amati Lelunganan: No travelling
Amati Lelanguan: Fasting and no revelry/self-entertainment
Fourth, the Yoga/Brata Ritual starts at 6:00 a.m. and continues to 6:00 a.m. the next day.
Fifth, the Ngembak Agni/Labuh Brata Ritual is performed for all Hindus to forgive each other and to welcome the new days to come.
Sixth and finally, The Dharma Shanti Rituals is performed after all the Nyepi rituals finished.