People who celebrate Nyepi will usually go abstain from doing anything, and the people of Bali got their own unique Balinese Hindu Nyepi day. Bali is an island where Hindu is a major religion. It is only necessary for Balinese to celebrate Nyepi like any other Hindus out there. However, there are several factors that make Nyepi in Bali a bit different from the other Nyepi. What makes them different?
# Before you know what makes them different, you need to understand the Balinese calendar system:
The people of Bali, as it is not for religious people, use three kinds of calendar systems. The first calendar is the ordinary Gregorian calendar (the normal calendar with January, February, and so on) while the second and the third calendar are Wuku and Sasih. They use the Gregorian one when it comes to working, but the rest of the two calendars are used when Balinese tradition is taken to the table. Events such as wedding ceremonies, traditional sacred dances, cremations, and holy days will all use Wuku and Sasih.
Wuku itself means weeks and it starts with Sinta, the first item in Wuku. 29 items later, Wuku ends with Watugunung. There is also Pawukon, which is a complex 210-days calendar that Javanese brought to Bali several centuries back. The Pawukon, an offshoot of Wuku, is used as the base for Balinese ritual activities.
Sasih, on the other hand, has its root in India. The calendar is a calendar consisting of twelve months, just like the Gregorian calendar. The name of the months are different, however, so learning this calendar can be a bit of a chore to do. Sasih is very important to Balinese people because they use Sasih to help them know when they should pay their respect to their gods.
# A brief history of Nyepi and Hinduism in Indonesia
While the people of the Western hemisphere (and Eastern countries with a heavy Western influence) celebrate the New Year in revelries and parties, the same cannot be said with Balinese. Balinese celebrate the New Year in silence, all in the hope that it can bring peace and balance to nature. This day of silence is called Nyepi day, which falls somewhere around the spring equinox.
Nyepi itself got its origin from King Kaniska the first, who was once a wise and tolerant king of India (he was loved by Buddhist and Hindus alike, which is pretty rare because Buddhist and Hindus would often dislike what the other like). Around his coronation, Hindu ‘missionaries’ are starting to travel the world, spreading good words about Hinduism all around it. Aji Saka was one of the most popular Hindu missionary back then. He did his Dharma Yatra to a land that would be called Indonesia and introduced the Saka Year.
# What makes Balinese Nyepi different than any other Nyepi?
There are four things that make Balinese Nyepi a bit different than any other Nyepi out there. Because Balinese takes their Nyepi seriously, they also conduct several processions a few days before the Nyepi, on the Nyepi day itself, and a day after the Nyepi. If you are curious about those processions, take a look below:
- Melasti or Mekiyis or Melis, which is a procession held three days before Nyepi
You read that right, people. Balinese are so serious with their Nyepi that they prepare themselves for it three days before the actual day. When the time for Melasti comes, the Arca (symbolic statues) around Bali will be cleansed. The reason why this procession is conducted is to clean nature and all of its content so that they are closer to the gods. Balinese will also take Amerta (their source of eternal life) from water resources such as the sea, lakes, or rivers.
To clean the arca and the other effigies, Balinese will bring them to the river and wash them. They believe that by washing the effigies, their effigies will be blessed by Baruna, which is a Hindunese version of the god of water. Only after the effigies are blessed that they bring them back home for safekeeping.
- A day before Nyepi, there is Tawur Kesanga
Tawur Kesanga is like Hindu’s very own exorcism ceremony in which they exorcized evil spirits (Buta Khala). This ceremony is far-fetching, meaning that ALL Balinese will get a chance to have the evil spirits exorcized, all in the purpose of keeping everything balanced.
While the term exorcism can be a bit scary to hear, Tawur Kesanga is actually not scary at all. The only thing that can be scary is probably the Ogoh-ogoh that they have created. Ogoh-ogoh is like a makeshift demon made of bamboo, created to symbolize the evil spirit that roams Bali. The Ogoh-Ogoh are all scary looking, with bulging eyes and menacing fangs all around (which can be pretty spooky for children). At the end of the day, Balinese will proceed to burn the Ogoh-Ogoh in an event called ngerupuk.
- When the time for Nyepi comes, silence is everywhere
When Nyepi comes, you will get nothing out of Balinese except for silence. Nyepi is the day of silence, after all, and something like that is to be expected. On Nyepi, no Hindunese are allowed to work nor do anything. They need to be silent and they must never do anything. Love making is strictly prohibited in Nyepi, even in married couples. Every electronic and every gadget will be turned off and no traffic can take place.
The only group of people who can work in Nyepi is the people who are included as Pecalang. Pecalang themselves are a sort of security guards that keep the peace intact. They are the one who will stop any Nyepi-disturbing activities. You can say that they are a peacekeeper of a sort.
- A day after Nyepi, Balinese will visit relatives
After Nyepi, the Hindu people of Bali will visit relatives in order to say their courtesies. They will forgive and ask forgiveness and they will conduct a ceremony called Dharma Canthi, which is a ceremony in which they will read ancient scripts filled with songs).
Nyepi is a very important religious event in Bali, so if you find yourself traveling Bali on Nyepi days, you will be treated to many ceremonies and processions. On the Nyepi day itself, tourists are expected to stay indoor because many of Balinese attractions will be forbidden to visit. Might be an inconvenience for you, but you still need to respect the unique Balinese Hindu Nyepi day if you do not want to be kicked out of the island.
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