Nyepi, Bali

Nyepi is celebrated at the same time everywhere in Bali. It is not governed by the Balinese calendar, but by the Hindu Saka calendar and thus occurs every year between March and April.

It is said that one day, the master of hell, Yama opens the doors wide and unleashes a horde of demons over Bali.
In anticipation of their arrival, at the setting sun, we lure them to cossroads by displaying tempting offerings on plaited rugs placed there (Demons are particularly fond of crossroads, as it is a place where they can easily harm humans by provoking accidents).
In fact, these offerings to the Kala and Bhuta are only tempting to them. The priest carries out a big ceremony at the place. At his signal, to close the ceremony, everyone stands up and begins walking around the rug, making lots of noise, and hitting the ground with split bamboo sticks.

With nightfall comes my favorite time of the year! We begin by making as much noise as we can with all sorts of things (firecrackers, saucepans, cymbals, and gongs). This is how we accompany our huge statue, the Ogoh Ogoh in a procession to the major cossroads where other banjars will meet us present us theirs. It takes at least 15 men to carry one single Ogoh Ogoh on its bamboo podium, or to push the ones with wheels.
These are giant monsters that can be more than 4 meters tall, and they are very heavy! When they meet up, the two groups simulate a ferocious battle between the monsters.

Then they proceed towards the sea and make room for the others.
The fights and noise are designed to terrify all the demons that we lured there, and to chase them away by showing them that there are those much stronger than them on the island !
The next day, the day of Nyepi and first day of the new Saka cycle, everyone must stay at home, meditating and praying, and respecting very strict instructions : to fast, not make noise and not use electricity... Of course, with the silence and deserted streets, the rare demons left on the island think that everybody has gone and so they leave, too, since what they like most of all is to bother the humans !
Text from My Life in Bali, by Sandrine Soimaud.
Photos by Henri-Pierre.

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