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BALI NYEPI DAY IS A NEW YEAR RITUAL FOR BALINESE HINDUS, WHERE THEY OPEN THE NEW YEAR WITH REFLECTION AND SILENCE

Balinese Hindu Nyepi Day, has a special meaning for Hindus in Bali. While every religion or culture in the world celebrates their new year in their own way. For example, the Chinese community celebrates Chinese New Year called “Gong Xi Fat Choy”, while Muslims welcome the year of Muharram. For those using the Gregorian calendar, the new year is celebrated on 1 January. Nyepi plays an important role for Balinese Hindus, as in their belief, they worship and keep the Gods (manifestations of Ida Sang Hyang Widi Wasa) within themselves and receive guidance and inspiration to start a new chapter in life.

All you need to know about Nyepi

  • Calendar for Count Nyepi Day
  • Function of Nyepi Day
  • Ritual Process Before Nyepi Day
  • Religious and Philosophy Nyepi Day

Calendar for Count Nyepi Day

Nyepi Day is a big celebration for Hindus in Bali and may be considered a new year for them. This is due to the island’s use of the Balinese calendar system, which contains a month of 35 days. The end of the Balinese calendar year is marked by Nyepi Day, known as the Saka year by Hindus. If based on the national calendar, Nyepi Day would not fall on the same date every year, due to the difference in the current calendar system which uses 30 days as a benchmark to measure the length of a month, while Nyepi is calculated using a 35-day calendar. Balinese people use two different calendar systems. Although they have adopted the Gregorian calendar for business and government affairs, for the procession of holy days, temple anniversaries, celebrations, sacred dances, house building, wedding ceremonies, death, cremation processions, and other activities that are part of their lives, they use Pawukon (from the word Wuku which means week) and Sasih (which means month).

Wuku consists of 30 items starting from Sinta as the first Wuku and ending with Watugunung as the last Wuku. Pawukon, a 210-day ritual calendar introduced from Java in the 14th century, is a complex cycle involving numerological conjunctions, which provides the basic schedule for ritual activities in Bali. Meanwhile, Sasih, which is a parallel system originating from India, is a twelve-month lunar calendar that begins with the vernal equinox. Sasih plays an equally important role as Pawukon in determining the time to pay homage to the Gods. There is a difference between the Western and Balinese way of celebrating New Year. Westerners celebrate with great revelry, while the Balinese open their New Year in silence. The day is called Nyepi, which is a Balinese day of silence. Nyepi falls on the day after the dark moon on the vernal equinox and opens the new year in the Hindu Saka era, beginning in 78 A.D.

Function of Nyepi Day

Nyepi is a day set aside to create and maintain the balance of nature. Nyepi in Bali is based on the story of when King Kaniska I of India was elected in 78 A.D. This king was known for his wisdom and tolerance towards the Hindu and Buddhist societies. During this time, Aji Saka undertook the Dharma Yatra, a mission trip to promote and spread Hinduism to Indonesia and introduce the Saka calendar system. In Balinese society, initiation ceremonies are generally performed during times of transition, both in the human being (bhuana alit) and in the universe (bhuana agung). This is because Balinese people consider the transitional period as sensitive, vulnerable to danger or unwanted events. Therefore, initiation ceremonies are necessary during the transitional period. Hari Raya Nyepi has an important function, where what has been felt, done, and experienced in the previous year is remembered, reflected upon, and re-evaluated on Hari Raya Nyepi. During Nyepi, Hindus can recognise their strengths, weaknesses, mistakes, and plan their actions for the future. Awareness of all the mistakes experienced opens the opportunity to forgive each other on Ngembak Geni Day, which follows the next day.

Ritual Process Before Nyepi Day

The Hindu community in Bali practices a variety of very complex religious ceremonies, one of which is the Nyepi ceremony. The Nyepi ceremony is a once-a-year celebration in the Balinese Hindu calendar that is full of symbols and deep meaning. Before welcoming Nyepi Day, there are a series of process stages that must be followed. Here are the stages of the Nyepi Day process :

1. Melasti or Mekiyis or Melis (three days before Nyepi)

Melasti is meant to cleanse the pratima (sacred statue), statue, or pralingga to become more holy. The symbols used in this ceremony help to focus the mind of Hindus to get closer to God. The ceremony has two main purposes, namely to cleanse the whole of nature and its contents and to take Amerta (the source of eternal life) from the ocean or other water sources such as lakes and rivers. Three days before Nyepi, all the God statues from all the temples in the village are taken to the river in a long and colourful ceremony. At the river, they are bathed by Dewa Baruna, the God of Bali, before being taken back to their respective temples.

2. Tawur Kesanga (the day before Nyepi)

Exactly one day before Nyepi Day, all Balinese villages organise the Tawur Kesanga ceremony, a massive ritual to ward off demons. The ceremony is held on the village’s main thoroughfare, considered a gathering place for demons. In order to carry out this carnival, people usually make Ogoh-ogoh, which are fantastic monsters or evil spirits or Butha Kala made of bamboo. The Ogoh-ogoh monster symbolises the existence of evil spirits that must be exorcised from our lives. The carnival usually starts after sunset, accompanied by Balinese gamelan music, especially Bleganjur. The ogoh-ogoh used in this procession often take the form of giants taken from classic Balinese stories, which have fangs, bulging eyes, scary hair, and are lit by torches. The procession is organised by Seka Teruna, a Banjar youth organisation. As the Ogoh-ogoh is played by the Seka Teruna, the whole community enjoys the carnival with great fervour. Tawur Kesanga aims to create a harmonious relationship between man and God, man and man, and man and his environment. Tawur Kesanga involves all levels of society, starting from people’s homes. At night, Hindus celebrate Ngerupuk, by making noise, lighting torches, and burning Ogoh-ogoh to drive away Bhuta Kala, evil spirits, from everyday life.

3. Nyepi

On Nyepi Day, all the streets will be deserted, and no one will be doing their usual daily activities. There is usually a Pecalang, which is a traditional Balinese security officer, whose role is to control and check the safety of the streets. Pecalang wears a black uniform and Udeng or Destar, which is a traditional Balinese hat generally used in ceremonies. Pecalang’s main duties are not only limited to controlling road safety, but also involve stopping any activities that may disturb the silence of Nyepi. During Nyepi, no traffic is allowed, be it motorised vehicles or pedestrians, who are expected to stay in their respective homes. Light is kept to a minimum, if not none at all. Radios and televisions are switched off, and to be sure, there is no work. Even activities such as lovemaking, which are generally done during leisure time, are not permitted or even attempted. Throughout the day, there is only the barking of a few dogs and the buzzing of insects, creating a long, quiet day in the island’s normally busy calendar. On Nyepi Day, the hope is to create a clean world, with humans demonstrating symbolic control over themselves and the “forces” of the World. Religious control is therefore considered an important step in achieving this state.

4. Ngembak Geni (the day after Nyepi)

Ngembak Geni is the day when Catur Berata Penyepian is over, and Hindus usually visit each other to forgive each other and do Dharma Canthi. Dharma Canthi is the act of reading ancient manuscripts containing songs and lyrics such as Sloka, Kekidung, Kekawin, and various other sacred texts.

As mentioned earlier, the Nyepi ceremony, especially the Pangrupukan ceremony, has a very profound function :

  1. To cleanse (shrink) the five maha bhuta elements that make up the universe as well as human beings from the disturbances and bad influences that bhutas may cause.
  2. To cleanse (shrink) the bhutas at that time. This process is meant to remove their bad qualities, so that their good qualities and powers can be utilised for the welfare of humanity and the universe as a whole.
  3. To increase the standard of living of the bhuta kala and the animals used as caru or sacrifice. This is based on the belief that the lives of bhuta kala and animals are lower than those of humans.
  4. To perform the obligations indicated by the teachings of Hinduism.

From these four points, it can be revealed that the more often rituals such as Pangrupukan are performed, the more ethical rules and religious values will be realised by Hindus. Therefore, the implementation of the Pangrupukan ceremony can be an effective effort in increasing the sense of religious sentiment among Hindus.

Religious and Philosophy Nyepi Day

From a religious and philosophical point of view, Nyepi is defined as a day of self-introspection, where Balinese Hindus define values such as humanity, love, patience, kindness, and others, which are considered to be preserved forever. Although there are many types of celebrations and holy days in the Balinese Hindu tradition, Nyepi stands out as the most important of them all. The restrictions that apply on Nyepi are taken very seriously, especially in villages outside of Bali’s southern tourist areas. Hotels are usually exempt from Nyepi’s strict practices, but roads outside the area will be closed to pedestrians and vehicles, except for airport shuttles or emergencies. Village wardens, called Pecalang, are stationed to prevent people from going out to the beach or breaking the rules during the day. Therefore, wherever you stay on Nyepi Day in Bali, it becomes a good opportunity to spend time indoors. Nyepi Day has given the Bali Island a unique identity.

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