One of Indonesia’s most unique holidays is Hindu New Year. Hari Raya Nyepi is celebrated on the first day of the Saka lunar calendar. The Hindu celebrations in Bali can last up to several days.
Three Days Before Bali Hindu New Year
There are various rituals that the Balinese people observe to celebrate the coming of the Hindu New Year in Bali. Three days prior to Hari Raya Nyepi, the Melasti Ritual is observed. The Melasti Ritual is performed near the water in Pura, a Hindu temple. Using sea water, the ritual purifies sacred objects.
The Eve of Hindu New Year
On Hindu New Year’s Eve in Bali, the Bhuta Yajna ritual is performed by every community. This ritual banishes negativity and evil from the island and its inhabitants. According to Hindu beliefs, it is the responsibility of humans to maintain the balance between the gods, Earth, and humans.
For this ritual, Balinese people create large statues of demons and other evil creatures out of bamboo and paper. These statues are known as ogoh-ogoh. Many of the ogoh-ogoh seen in parades are created by youth groups from Balinese villages. The most impressive ogoh-ogoh are usually created by Balinese artists.
After the ogoh-ogoh are created, they are taken to a large street parade for everyone to see. It is believed that the ogoh-ogoh will absorb the negative energy of the spectators and ward off evil spirits. After the parade, the ogoh-ogoh are burned in a large public bonfire. In addition to warding off evil and purifying the Balinese people, the bonfire is also believed to satisfy Batara Kala, the god of the underworld.
Rituals and Day of Silence on Hindu New Year
On Hindu New Year’s Day, Hindus participate in Nyepi rituals. The first aspect of the Nyepi ritual is known as Amati Geni. Amati Geni declares that no fire or light can be used on Bali during Hari Raya Nyepi. Amati Geni also restricts the use of electricity.
The second aspect of the Nyepi ritual is Amati Karya. According to Amati Karya, no one in Bali may work during Hari Raya Nyepi. The third aspect of the Nyepi rituals, Amati Lelunganan, declares that no one may travel during Hari Raya Nyepi. The final aspect of the Nyepi rituals is Amati Lelanguan. Amati Lelanguan declares that every person in Bali must fast during Hari Raya Nyepi. Amati Lelanguan also requires people in Bali to refrain from entertainment.
During the Day of Silence, Bali’s people are expected to reflect on their actions over the past year. Many Balinese people will take this as an opportunity to rest and think of ways to improve themselves throughout the upcoming year. To ensure that all aspects of the Nyepi rituals are followed, Nyepi policemen patrol the island of Bali. Everyone on Bali must abide by the Nyepi rituals. Because of this, the Bali airport closes for the day and all visitors stay indoors or leave the island.
The Day of Silence is a tradition that dates back to some of the earliest years in Balinese history. Balinese people believe that remaining silent for a full day after loud celebrations will trick evil spirits into thinking that the island of Bali is uninhabited. According to this idea, the spirits will leave the island alone since their ultimate goal is to torment humans.