On March 7, 2019, Nyepi, Bali's most important and most unusual festival was held. Destined to celebrate the new year, Nyepi has nothing to do with our traditional New Year. In Bali, the new year rhymes with fasting, meditation and spirituality. The entire island of Bali is indeed invited to a silence for 24 hours to reconnect one’s body and mind. Tourist attractions and shops are closed to allow real introspection. We took a close interest in this feast. Check out our guide on Nyepi and our tips for surviving this local holiday.
The date of Nyepi is set each year according to the Saka calendar, a tribe that has conquered Northwest India. About a month before Nyepi, we begin to see Ogoh Ogoh, paper mache monsters, being manufactured in the streets of Bali. The Ogoh Ogoh are, for the most part, demonic mythological beings and symbolise all the negative forces that have passed in the year. The day before the Nyepi, these creations will parade through the streets of Bali to chase evil spirits and purify the natural environment of Bali. To accompany this parade, the Balinese generally explode firecrackers and light torches. Tingling and festive, the day before Nyepi is a real enchantment that will amaze you if you have the chance to visit Bali at this time of the year.
Many rituals precede Nyepi. They aim to purify Bali's environment to start the new year off right. Three days before Nyepi, Melasti generally takes place, a ceremony that consists of purifying the sacred objects and collecting sacred water from the Indian Ocean. Then follows the bhutayajna, intended to defeat the evil spirits that have infiltrated the streets of Bali. These are Ogoh Ogoh, the paper beings mentioned earlier. After marching through the Balinese streets, these demonic statues are usually burned to symbolise the purification of the island.
Once the Ogoh Ogoh have purged Bali of all negative forces, it is time for the island to empty its inhabitants. From 6am until the next day at the same time, locals and tourists are invited to retreat to their homes without internet or electricity. Even Bali airport is closed. This day marks the beginning of the Balinese New Year. Nyepi is devoted to meditation, introspection and questioning of the soul. All the streets of Bali are deserted; tourist attractions and businesses are closed. It is forbidden to work or to engage in any fun activity. Some village militias monitor the inhabitants to respect this extremely important spiritual rite in Balinese culture. Nyepi also aims to start from scratch and to forgive others for their past mistakes. If some tourists and expatriates prefer to escape the scary silence of Bali to join the carnival festivities of Lombok or Jakarta, we advise you nevertheless to live this experience. Unusual and invigorating, Nyepi will allow you to relax and forget all the worries of everyday life. Take the opportunity to meditate and do some yoga!
If you spend your holidays in Bali during Nyepi, here are some tips to survive this day.
First of all, we recommend staying in Bali to experience this unique day that will allow you to relax the pressure, eliminate toxins and rest. Many tourists who have lived in Nyepi say that they slept a lot during the day, which allowed them to relax and forget all their concerns.
As all shops are closed during Nyepi, we also recommend that you stock up on food and drinks in the previous days. While it is advisable to fast during Nyepi to purify your body, you can still cook healthy dishes to detoxify your body.
Nyepi is also an opportunity to do good! Do not hesitate to visit the spa or to offer massages to relax and release the pressure.
Finally, once night falls, you can enjoy the golden silence to observe the stars during this day when there is virtually no air pollution. You can then capture these sublime landscapes and leave with precious memories.
According to the Balinese calendar, the date of the next Nyepi is set for March 23, 2020. If you plan to fly to this magical island, do not wait and live this truly unique experience.