Happy New Year (Again!): Nyepi, The Balinese Day of Silence

The day we arrived in Ubud was the eve of Nyepi, a Balinese Hindu festival known as the Day of Silence. It is a full day where everyone stays home: no work, no travel, no special entertainment, just a day of fasting and reflection. The streets are empty of locals and tourists alike, and all shops and businesses are closed. Exceptions are made for life threatening emergencies, but the otherwise the only people on the street during the day are the traditional security men called Pecalang.

The silence of Nyepi is a stark contrast to the night before. Everyone takes to the streets for the parade of ogoh-ogoh, statutes of malicious mythological beings which are marched around town and eventually burned  as a purification symbol.

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Did I mention they are malicious? Because they really, really are.

They ogoh-ogoh are made of paper and Styrofoam, so they are relatively lightweight for their size. They are mounted on a bamboo frame and carried by hand during the parade.

Some young boys waiting to carry a small ogah-ogah in the parade.

Some young boys waiting to carry a small ogoh-ogoh in the parade.

After driving across the island from our beach hideaway in the north, it was disorienting to be thrust into the crowds preparing for the parade. Ubud is a major tourist center in Bali, and throngs of people come out to see this once a year event.

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People getting a closer look before the parade

The ogoh-ogoh are put on display in an open area before the parade, so we were able to get a very close look.

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Some of them are very detailed and expressive.

We walked around the holding area, but had to leave before the parade really got started. That’s the down side to traveling with a small child who zonks out by 8pm. After the chaos of the parade preparations and street performances, the Day of Silence was a welcome respite.

I think this one was my favorite, especially the facial expression on the rat hiding between his feet.

I think this one was my favorite, especially the facial expression on the rat hiding between his feet.

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2 thoughts on “Happy New Year (Again!): Nyepi, The Balinese Day of Silence

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