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  • Writer's pictureAnne McCormick

A Day of Silence Descends on Bali

Updated: Jul 25, 2018

Written on March 17, 2018

I sit as the afternoon draws to a close, surrounded by birdsong as all the local birds get ready to roost for the night. I am feeling peaceful and re-energized. Today is Balinese New Year, Nyepi, the day of silence. Imagine this; a bustling island shutting down completely for 24 hours.

Bali became independent 78 years ago, so this year they are ushering in the year 1940. The stores, shops, and restaurants are all closed. Not a soul is in sight. All forms of transportation are also shut down, including the airport. Even the internet has been disabled for this 24-hour period. For many Balinese, this is the only day a year they are not required to work. Today they stay in their family compound in a state of reflection. As tourists, we are required to stay in our villas and hotels.

There are more rules included in this day: There is to be no cooking, cleaning, or any entertainment. As with many traditions, the times they are a changin' (in the wise words of Bob Dylan), and this may not be adhered to as it has been in the past.

I woke this morning only to the sounds of the birds and my own thoughts. I swear, even the dogs stopped barking and the roosters stopped crowing for the day. It's such a contrast to the lively ceremonies I've attended in the past few days.

It is my understanding that the ceremonies leading up to Nyepi are to clear the evil spirits from the land, from both the people and objects. The final clearing of the bad spirits from the island happens when people carry the Ogoh Ogohs through their villages and towns. The bad spirits are attracted into the Ogoh Ogoh. These Ogoh Ogohs are elaborate, massive creatures that are usually based on mythical characters. Each community comes together to build these effigies. Last night the smallest one was carried by a couple of young children, four or five years old at most. It was priceless to see. Often each community builds several Ogoh Ogohs, one for the different age groups. I am excited that the girls have started to participate in the building and carrying of their own Ogoh Ogohs.

Tonight, as the sun sets, there will be no outside lights, so the spirits cannot find this area. Sleepy and peaceful, I will go to bed with the sun.

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