NYEPI, “Day of Silence” today, March 9, 2016 ~ A New Years HINDU Balinese celebration and public holiday ~ called Ugadi ~ in India (according to the Balinese calendar).
The ritual consists of silence, fasting and meditation in which EVERYONE including tourists, are asked to observe. No fires, only low lights, no work, no talking, no eating, no TV, no radio and absolutely no hustle or bustle of daily life in Bali. Only emergency vehicles AND the Pecalang Security men patrol the streets to insure the prohibitions are followed. NO ONE ELSE is exempt from following these restrictions. Of course what you do indoors is your business, But PEOPLE did come to my door and asked that I shut my curtains and only use the lowest lamp in the apartment when dusk came over the island. For a short time I had NO power on and radio and TV is completely OFF along with the complete closer of airport on Silent Day….but internet did stay on. The celebration ritual lasts a total of about 5-7 days with Silent Day being a holiday.
Part of the ritual begins days before Silent Day by the gathering of sacred water from the sea to purify sacred objects. Next, temple rituals take place to vanquish negative ‘Energies’ and to create balance with nature, the gods and all mankind. Last, the OGOH-OGOH (handmade statues made of bamboo and paper) or ‘Demonic Creatures’ symbolizing negative elements and evil-minded spirits are paraded down the city streets! Heaps of ‘on-looker crowds’ smoother the streets even in the nighttime’s suffocating heat. Parade Torch Carriers (lit to burn the spirits) stand and walk alongside the crowds and guide the Demon Spirits down the streets from different temples where various rituals are performed. Finally after much music, dancing, parading and crowd pleasing, the ogoh-ogoh are taken back to their perspective temples and set fire to burn away the evil spirits for the coming year….SILENT DAY begins the very next day.
This parade was quite the sight, something I will never forget and probably the highlight of my Indonesia journey. I loved the traditional music with it’s gongs and singing bowls and unusual drums and the strange beats coming from other exotic musical instruments. The BRIGHT colorful Creature Spirits had large FANGS and creepy fingernails, HORNS and odd creature and human shapes with more than one head and were so imaginative and creatively AWE inspiring. The Creature Spirits gave you that ‘eerie wicked mojo’ sending a direct message to your eyeballs and deep into your psyche!
Men and Boys holding the creatures from underneath with crisscross bamboo poles all moved in unison and danced together to bring the Spirits alive to the beat of the music. Pink and purple smoke lit the sky when the giant Spirits danced! Flying into the air was colorful and shiny shimmering confetti followed by big pops of POW * BANG! All the parade men had on matching clothes and scarf hats for their Creature Spirit and the side men had long skinny bamboo poles with a ‘Y’ at the end to hold up all the low hanging ELECTRICAL WIRES so the spirits could pass under. THAT in itself was pretty exciting, lol! As smashed together as everyone was, and as hot and sweaty and claustrophobic as I could be in a packed crowd….IT WAS SO WORTH IT!
Now I sit here writing this blog post on Silent Day…I am NOT supposed to be working or entertaining but I couldn’t help myself because I just had to share my meditative thoughts about all this. Sometimes you struggle with another cultures way of life but all you can do is question what you don’t know or understand and accept. But the fact of the matter is everywhere around the world is the same and is different. I found myself rather annoyed at first ~THINKING I was trapped into staying in my apartment for a day when in fact it’s really no different than any other relaxing day, except I am in Bali and it’s REAL QUIET for the first time and I am actually enjoying the peacefulness of SILENT DAY. I have to admit it’s a bit unnerving to walk outside on to my balcony in the complete pitch dark night, with barely a light in the distance of this jungle island but you CAN see the stars and it’s calming and reflective. I think that’s the point, Right?
I really am living and obeying like a local here. I didn’t get to the ATM on time so I didn’t have much money for groceries so I ate barely anything…so I guess I fasted with only one small meal. I am silent and meditative being alone and writing my thoughts. I have only one small night light to write by and to find the toilet with. I even shut off the AC and found it to be so quiet and mind clearing even if it does get a bit stuffy. The only sound is the chatter in my head and it has nice things to say. Occasionally I hear the local barking watch dog or fighting cat’s meow. My studio apartment is small and humble and I don’t have much inside. I live in a real Balinese neighborhood and walk everywhere so I experience first hand the struggles of everyday life in a 2nd world country. And I think that’s when it reminded me how being born into a particular race or country gives you a belief system that is forever extended into your adulthood. Few people change this pattern but wanderers, like myself, often question those beliefs.
Why should ONE little day like SILENT DAY be so annoying at first? To not have those simple luxury’s we take for granted, to be told what to do, to be forced into a meditative state for a whopping 24hrs….like it’s gonna kill me, NOT! Then you imagine… what if you suddenly had the chance to be brought up in a country with completely opposite cultural values and religion, and be able to compare the two while still being patriotic to both? Being part of something you have never known. Letting go and acceptance. Blending into it. Finding the peace in it. Being in the quiet of it….the silence. Everywhere in everything there is a kind of beauty… if you would only look for it. If you can stop and listen for it, feel it or see it in the small details. It kind of whispers back to you. If only people would STOP pushing their ideals on other people and see the differences and see the similarities….and find the middle and rest inside that very point. I am so tired of hearing American’s do this and American’s do that…..EVERY COUNTRY has their ISSUES. Why not just look within yourselves and stop bitching about everyone else? LOOK WITHIN…
I always try to go to a place with an open mind but find I need a few weeks to actually PRY IT OPEN….lol, oh yaaa, world traveler alright, but its where you were bred and raised that drags you back to your old habits and thought patterns. I asked a fellow Aussie traveler I met WHY he liked Bali so much since he had been coming here for 30 years? I remarked about how disorganized it was and such chaos and noise pollution in Denpasar but THAT was the very thing he enjoyed. He mentioned that coming from an organized CEO world with so much structure that he was just enamored with the fact it functioned with such disarray. This gave me food for thought. He also laughed about being swindled by some really clever cell phone thieves out of a few Australian dollars and chuckled about the story he now had to tell! Another traveler, a writer from DC, talked about how he found the manicured lawns at the resorts so boring and dull and loved being in the center of the commotion of Seminyak while another American woman living in Australia came to get her Dental Crowns done in order to save a whopping $4,000…for $1,000 her dentist supplied her with 3 crowns, super customer service and a driver to take and pickup and all within a weeks time. DANG!
The last few days I calmly spent my time walking along the river bank near my apartment and peeking into temples along the way. I feel myself slowly unlatching my mind’s eye to this new and every changing culture. I look forward to exploring other parts, more remote, in the north and experience the BALI of tall tales and stories of long ago. What I learned today from this very holy Balinese New Years day, is that I HAVE NOW WELCOMED a new set of eyes, ears, mouth and words for the coming new year and to share this peace of mind with everyone along the way. My Day of Silence is nearly over but…I GOT IT.
Damai teman-teman saya pada hari diam ~ Peace my friends on this Day of Silence
NAMASTE Ms Harmonica
PARADE PHOTOS BY: Bronwyn Harmer of Australia! thank you!!