123 quiet and still is a great game on long car rides. I was always amazed when a group of kids could be quiet and still for more than two minutes but an island of 2 million for 24 hours….impossible…right? Not if you’re in Bali on the day after the dark moon of the spring equinox. The Hindu new year- Neypi- begins with a day of silence.
The Hindu people are very busy in the days leading up to Neypi. Offerings need to be made, rice cooked, houses cleaned, statues bathed and the finishing touches on the Ogoh- Ogoh’s has to happen.
The local villages, schools and temples start working on these scary creatures about 6 weeks before the celebration.
First comes Melasti 3 days before Neypi , all the effigies of the Gods from all the village temples are taken to the river or the sea in long and colorful ceremonies. The statues are bathed by God Baruna, before being taken back home to their shrines.
The New years eve celebration of Tawur Kesanga begins with a large exorcism ceremony at the village cross-road, the meeting place of demons…. These fantastic monsters and evil spirits are carried through the villages on the shoulders of eight or more men/boys. The procession is followed by gamelan music and girls carrying torches along with a lot of screaming bystanders.
At every intersection of the village the Ogoh-ogoh is rotated counter-clockwise three times. This is done to appease and bewilder the evil spirits so they will leave the island and the people unharmed. At the end of the night the Ogoh Ogoh’s are burnt to ashes as a symbol of self-purification.
The celebration ends and the New Year begins with silence. From day break to-day break the island of Bali is silent. The 24 hours is reserved for self-reflection, anything that might interfere with that purpose is restricted. The rules are no lighting fires; no use of electricity; no working; no traveling; and for some, no talking or eating at all. Even non-Hindu’s and tourist must observe the restrictions out of respect for the local people.
The normally chaotic streets are empty. No buzz of motorbikes, no chatter floating from the Warungs, no tourist’s dotting the sandy beaches, no airplanes flying through the skies. The only ones out were the local Banjar (security) wearing the traditional checkered sarong and carrying a big sword. Their job is to put a stop to any activities that disturb the silence.
I was feeling a little nervous about how I could keep our 3 very loud boys quiet but they (surprise to me) were happy to follow the rules. We spent the day talking to each other in hushed voices, reading, playing legos, working on a school project with Zeb and just relaxing together. It turned out to be a lovely family day.
That night Philip and the big boys had turned on a movie it was very quiet but the light could be seen through our windows, a few minutes later the Banjar and their swords were at our door…..
They were very kind and ask that we take the computer into a back room with curtains. They appreciated that as non Hindus we were observing the rules… for the most part.
I feel lucky to have been here. It was beautiful to be a part of something so much bigger than ourselves a unified experience shared by 2 million. Leaves you to wonder what the world would be like if we all observed a day of self-relection. Certainly couldn’t hurt the people or the planet….
Happy 1933 Bali!!!