Nyepi day.

Trip Start Sep 21, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Indonesia  ,
Wednesday, March 5, 2008

I was extremely lucky to get to Bali three days before the Balinese new year celebrations. I had no idea it was this time of the year. The Balinese follow a very unusual calender that has 310 days only. There were celebrations all over the island and it proved to be one of the most spectacular events I had ever seen anywhere in the world.

 The Balinese are some of the most spiritual people I ever met.  Two days before new years day the people of all the villages take turn at going to the beach for a purification/exorcism ceremony. There are depictions of demons and dragons and all kinds of good spirits meant to help rid the island of bad spirits. On the last day of the year, they make as much noise as possible using canons and fireworks and the likes to scare away evil spirits. And on new year's eve, just as you think you've seen everything, comes the unbelievably colorful Ogoh-Ogoh parade. The Ogoh-Ogohs are monsters made by hand by the villagers and they are an incarnation of the devil as they see it. They want them to be as ugly and scary as possible to make sure every single evil spirit will be scared away. They are between 3 and 4 meters tall and each one of them takes over a month to complete. They are the coolest thing I have ever seen.

Then on the first day of the new year a strict curfew is enforced all over the island. No one is allowed to leave home. Tourists must stay in their hotel room. It is forbidden to use electricity or even to light up a candle. Everyone also has to keep silence. The Balinese don't even speak to one another that day. They only make gestures to communicate. The idea behind it is that they believe the evil spirits will come back to Earth on the first day of the year. When they find not trace of human activity they will think the island is deserted and move on to another island. Bali will therefore be free of evil spirits for the year to come. How cool is that ? I was so happy to be part of it. They take this very seriously. The police patrols the streets that night and arrests anyone that makes noise or those that make themselves visible to the evil spirits.

Finally on the second day of the new year everyone travels and visit their family to exchange new year wishes. And they also go and meet their enemies and apologize for anything bad they might have done to each other in the past year. And they promise each other love and respect for the coming year. That way everyone can start the new year free of worries and bad spirit influence and they can all look at the future optimistically.
I spent a whole rainy afternoon sitting with and old man who explained me all the beliefs they have in the bad spirits and Black Magic. The Balinese are so superstitious. They spend most of their time trying to please the good spirits and are always very careful not to irritate the bad spirits. Every morning they go out and put offerings in the streets in front of their homes and businesses. It's all very colorful. They spent something like one third of their revenue on spiritual celebrations and offerings. 

Those celebrations will remain in my memory forever.

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