On Friday, 23 March 2012 Bali will celebrate the Lunar New Year and if you are in Bali you will have the experience of participating in one of the most important and unusual traditions on the island. Nyepi is a day of absolute silence. No one is allowed on the streets, no cars may drive on the roads, no planes may take off or land in the airport. The island is bathed in an other worldly silence since even within the home, people use this day for contemplation and meditation.As darkness falls, there will be no man made light visible.
The evening before Nyepi is a stark contrast. There are various rituals leading up to the day of Nyepi, but perhaps the most colourful is the Bhuta Yajna Ritual preformed the night before. Banjars (religious neighbourhood groups) throughout Bali create giant ogoh-ogoh, created from bamboo and paper. The ogoh-ogoh are demonic figure representing negative elements or evil spirits. These figures are paraded around the village before being burned and in some cases swept out to sea. As all evil elements leave the island, Bali is symbolically brought back to its time of creation. It is an exciting spectacle and you are encouraged to view one of the many processions.
There are some practical considerations for the day of Nyepi since even visitors to the island are required to follow certain guidelines and all hotels and villas must comply with the rules. You may be given a flashlight, because no large lights may be used and dinner will be finished before dark since the flame of the gas stove must not be seen. If you are in Bali it is a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the complex Balinese culture and to experience first hand a most unusual tradition.