#tbt: Nyepi – the Balinese New Year…a day of self-contemplation

To all of my Balinese friends:  Selamat hari raya Nyepi!

This Saturday all of Bali will celebrate Nyepi, the Balinese new year.  After thanksgiving it is probably one of my favorite holidays.  Nyepi, also known as the “day of silence”, is 24 hours of self contemplation.  In the months leading up to Nyepi, kids in banjars (villages) construct elaborate statues called Ogoh-ogoh.  On the eve of Nyepi, Balinese around the island carry the Ogoh-ogoh in processions and subsequently burn them.  This practice is meant to cleanse the island of any bad spirits.  On the day of Nyepi, no one is allowed to leave their house, the entire island is silent, and no lights can be used.

I remember last year having the amazing opportunity to take part in this holiday.  The entire island closed down, including the airport.  As the sun began to set, no one was allowed to let any light shine outside…not even the candle-light we were using to try to cook our fish!  What resulted though was truly breathtaking.  Sitting on the stairs leading up to my neighbor’s temple, the stars across the sky shined bright.  With no light pollution from the island, the sky was an amazing spectacle…the Milky Way brightly exposed.  What struck me even more was the realization that at that moment, the entire Balinese population (over 4 million people) was cut off from the rest of the world…together with family and friends to contemplate the previous year, and begin the next year anew.

While I would love to be there in person, I wish everyone in Bali a peaceful Nyepi as the entire island steps off the grid to self-contemplate and be with family and friends…something I think we should all take more time to do and embrace.

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