Nyepi, the Silent New Year in Bali during the Pandemic

Nyepi is around the corner! The day where all Hindu-Balinese celebrate their end of the year through silence, fasting, and meditation- practices of self-control and self-reflection. How does Nyepi look this year, in the middle of a pandemic?
For you who have only heard about it, the idea of Nyepi itself is simply a day of silence and nothingness; no form of noise, work, and entertainment. Because the majority of Balinese practice Hinduism, hence the silent day is applied throughout the whole of Bali. Here’s our previous article about Nyepi and its rituals if you are interested in learning more about the event that takes place once a year.

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Shortly, during Nyepi the road will be (almost) completely empty, no shop is allowed to operate, and you will barely see anyone on the street except for the pecalang, which are similar to local/traditional polices, to make sure that nobody wanders around during the silent hours. The silence goes on for 24 hours and after that is what will be referred to as the new year​, from 6 AM to 6 AM.​

Days before Nyepi

Not only that, the religion is widely known as one with many ceremonies, so it's not too surprising to find that before the day of Nyepi itself, numbers of ceremonies and rituals need to be done, such as Melasti, Tawur Agung Kesanga, and Ogoh-Ogoh, which are normally done 2-3 days before the total silence. Melasti is done in the sea to symbolize self-cleansing, which later followed by Tawur Agung which is similar in essence but symbolizes humans’ most important relationships with God, nature, and fellow human beings. Lastly, in the evening exactly before Nyepi, you will see groups of people walking around with enormous hand-crafted beasts and mystical creatures statues to symbolize the evil traits within us, which is referred to as Ogoh-Ogoh. These statues are later burned to symbolize the vanishing of the ugly traits in us. At the peak of it all, Catur Brata, or what is more commonly known as Nyepi finishes off the whole process of rebirth. Where we indulge ourselves in nothingness, no work, no source of entertainment, no light, no noise, nothing. 

But what happens on this year’s Nyepi remembering we are in the middle of a pandemic?

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Nyepi, Certain Adjustments, and The Pandemic

Apparently, based on the provincial government’s decision and letter of announcement, this year's Nyepi will be done with certain adjustments. Melasti and Tawur Agung, who were normally done by hundreds of people per area can still be held but with ONLY 25 people maximum per group of people; and people experiencing even the slightest symptoms of unwellness are forbidden from doing the ceremonies.

Besides, Ogoh-Ogoh is not happening this year due to its level of necessity that is not considered as important compared to the other ceremonies following Nyepi. Ogoh-ogoh itself as the peak of attraction for the non-practitioners would normally get attention from thousands of people around Bali who are interested in watching the parade of creatively-built statues.

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Though the silent day may sound unbelievably hard especially for those who have never got the chance to experience it, it is actually not bad at all! Nyepi is not as strict as it used to be compared to a decade ago. Many tourist accommodations now offer ‘Nyepi Package’ which includes staycation rooms and meals during Nyepi for people who fancy a little getaway during the silent day. Normally in these accommodations, (covered) lights are tolerated, or they are just simply located in the middle of nowhere so you will not have to worry about having to be in complete silence and darkness the whole time. 

But the real kicker during Nyepi in many people’s opinions, is the sky. The sky during Nyepi is extremely starry, everything feels enhanced due to its non-existent light and air pollution throughout the day. It’s always a good reminder for us about just how much change we can make from just a short amount of time of giving our earth a break. 

So, interested in experiencing Nyepi in Bali?

Did you get inspired to participate?