Silence reigns supreme on the sacred Hindu holiday of Nyepi. The streets of Bali empty out. Motorbikes go silent. Storefronts close. Lights remain off. Not a single candle is lit. For twenty-four hours, the island observes a collective day of prayer, meditation, fasting, and reflection.
But the night before is a different story. The Ngrupuk parade marches through the streets, as revelers carry Ogoh-ogoh, or demonic statues meant to represent Buta Kala, terrifying spirits from Balinese Hindu tradition. These huge effigies, crafted from bamboo, wood, and paper, tower overhead as the sounds of loud music, shouting and banging reverberate through the night, drawing out all malevolent spirits from their places of hiding. The parade ends in a wild blaze of flames, a ritual burning to clear the way for the Holy Day of Silence.
Create. Burn. Reflect.
We asked Balinese artisans what Nyepi means to those who live it every year.
Budiharta – Jewelry Artisan
There are four ritual components to Nyepi. Amati Geni, which means that Hindus are not allowed to indulge in anger or hatred. The second is Amati Karya, which brings a halt to all work activities in order to focus on the Creator. Amati Lelungan means no one leaves the house. Finally, Amati Lelanguan means not enjoying entertainment of any kind. Regardless of one’s religion, everyone deserves an opportunity to reflect on themselves, leaving behind the complexity and noise of everyday life.
Ari Gunawan – Jewelry Artisan
For Nyepi, Balinese Hindu people meditate inside the house without electricity or any entertainment. For twenty-four hours, people are not allowed to go outside or even turn on lights. I like the Day of Silence because it is a time when I can meditate and look back on what I have done the past year. I discover where I went wrong and pray to not make those mistakes again in hopes of doing better for the new Saka Year.
Made Mulyan – Wood Carver Artisan
The spiritual aspect of Nyepi day is to ask God to purify Bhuwana Agung (the universe) and Bhuwana Alit (ourselves) as we enter the new Saka year. This is why the Ogoh-ogoh are burned, as a symbol of eliminating negative traits so that in entering the new Saka year, we will be in a state of holiness and positivity. As for me, I like Nyepi because it is my chance to give myself and the universe a break after a year spent working and worrying about other things. It gives me the chance to look back on what I have done.