Setting off on a journey is not just about planning the date of departure, booking the hotels, or arranging the tours, but also checking what will be going on at your destination while you are there. In my case, I forgot the last step.
Some years ago, in 2014, I was off to Bali with my husband in March to celebrate his birthday. Recklessly, I forgot to check when the Balinese would celebrate Nyepi that year. You might think that I'm exaggerating, or that it's not really that important to check. That’s your opinion, but I assume that it will be clearer to you after reading my post why I care about whether our visit coincided with Nyepi.
As we arrived on the airport, we were blinded by the excitement - finally we are on holiday in Bali! How luxurious it will be...
But then, our driver interrupted our happiness by asking one crucial question - and it was lucky that he did, or else the consequences could have been serious. “So, did you come here on purpose to witness our biggest ceremony?" he asked politely.
Wow wow wow! “What kind of ceremony do you mean?” I asked innocently.
“We will have Melasti today, because tomorrow we will initiate the Day of Silence.”
What is Nyepi?
Nyepi is the Balinese “Day of Silence” that is always commemorated according to the Balinese Calendar (Saka). Normally it falls in March or in April. This year it was celebrated last week (17th March 2018).
Nyepi lasts for a day and is observed from 6 am to 6 am the next day. It consists of many rituals which I shall explain briefly below.
What do the Balinese do on the day of Nyepi?
Nyepi is a day of fasting, prayer, and meditation. That is why all kind of activities which interfere with that purpose are restricted. Meditation has a special purpose for the Balinese: to contemplate what they have done in the previous year and strive to be better in the next one. (We should be like them as well!) In general, they do these four main rituals on Nyepi Day:
During these days, the bustling streets all over Bali transform into ghost towns. The restaurants, cafes, bars, and stores are closed! It is forbidden for you to go to the beach or any other places. Yet, you can do whatever you wish in your hotel room, as long as you follow the prohibitions above.
What did I do in Bali during Nyepi?
As soon as I realised that we wouldn’t be able to order any food from the hotel restaurant, or buy something from the supermarkets, we rushed to McDonalds and "looted" the minimarket. We needed to line up for about one hour just to get three hamburgers, two chickens, two portions of rice, and some pies. Then, we sprinted to the minimarket beside it and took all kinds of snacks that were still available on the rack.
At night before Nyepi started, the hotel officers knocked at our door, told us that tomorrow morning we mustn’t go out from the hotel, order food, swim in the swimming pool, or make noise. Also, it was forbidden to light our lamp brightly.
It will be so much better if you bring books, board games, or something fun with you whenever or wherever you travel. In Bali, during Nyepi, it will come in handy. Believe me.
For your information:
During Nyepi, the local and central government close flights to and from Bali. The port and the airport are closed.
What else happens before or after Nyepi?
This ritual is held three to four days beforehand in some temples near the sea. The main purpose is to purify the Arca (sacred objects) using the sacred water from the sea.
Bhuta Yajna Ritual
This ritual is performed to vanquish negative energy from the surroundings and to create a balance with God, mankind, and nature. Also, Batara Kala is appeased by offering live animal sacrifice.
So, in general, there are sixth days of Nyepi: