Nyepi is the most important and sacred Hindu holiday in Bali and is a general public holiday in the rest of Indonesia. On nyepi day Ngurah Rai International airport is closed. Nyepi meaning “to keep silence” and falls on the day after the dark moon of the spring equinox when the day and night are of approximately equal duration. The roads are off limit to all types of motorized vehicles and people on foot. All grocery, clothes and other types of shops are closed. For tourists and Balinese. Restaurants are closed.
The Beach is prohibited. Basically anything other then being indoors is restricted. While indoors the inhabitants must ensure that all audio devices are turned down to a minimum volume. As the day draws to an end and the sunsets, the curtains need to be drawn shut, with minimum light being used in ones living quarter. If an airplane was to fly over Bali, the island would not be seen. To ensure that all the rules are obeyed local watchmen known as Pecalang (Nyepi Police) are deployed all over the island.
The famous ogoh-ogoh parades, where Balinese men (and boys) carry scary creatures of respectable sizes through the streets accompanied by noise and gambelan music is happening on “Nyepi Eve”, the evening of the first day before New Year Balinese people carry large ogoh-ogoh through Bali’s streets. Already young kids follow the example of their fathers. The statues are up to 25feet tall and can be very heavy. With the help of a bamboo grid a large group of men carry the ogoh-ogoh followed by Balinese gamelan musicians. Tourists and visitors are welcome to watch the parades, take pictures and witness this unique spectacle. Some of these ogoh-ogoh are actually burnt after the parade.
However, Balinese New year is some celebrated with Nyepi day- the day of silence., being only one aspect of it. There are several rituals that stand out :
- The first is melasti (mekiis or melis). The ritual is permormed in Pura (Balinese temple) near the sea (Pura Segara) and meant to purify sacred object such as Arca, Pratima, and Pralinga belonging to several temples.
- The second is the Bhuta Yajna Ritual (Mecaru). The ritual is also meant to win over Batara Kala by the pecaruan offering. Tawur Kesanga and Caru are sacrifice rituals that take place one day before the Nyepi day. At sunset 5-6 pm the ritual of pangerupukan takes place (ogoh-ogoh parade).
- The third are the Nyepi Ritual, and on Nyepi day usually include Yoga or Brata ritual. Nyepi expects a day of absolute silence, based on the four precepts os Catur Brata Penyepian; – Amati Geni : no fire or light, including no electricity. Prohibition of satisfying pleasurable human appetites. – Amati Karya : no form of physical working other then that which is dedicated to spiritual cleansing and renewal.- Amati Lelungan : no movement or traveling.- Amati Lelanguan : fasting and no revelry/self entertainment or general merrymaking.
- The fourth is the Ngembak Geni / Labuh Brata ritual. Ngembak is the day when Catur Brata Penyepian is over and the Balinese Hindus visit families, neighbours and relatives to exchange forgiveness.