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Nyepi: Balinese New Year


Nyepi: Balinese New Year

Nyepi: Balinese Hindus celebrate the New Year

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Nyepi is New Year's Day in Bali, the Southeast Asian island that has over 90% Hindus! Nyepi is at once a day of celebration and of silence - a day to remember not only oneself but also the state of the universe before creation.

When is Nyepi?

Usually Nyepi fall in mid-March. Following the Hindu lunar calendar, Nyepi begins the Saka year in the month of Chaitra (March). It was Aji Saka, the princely scholar, who introduced the Saka era in Bali. In India the Saka calendar begins with purnima or full moon, but in Bali it starts with amavasya or moonless night.

Nyepi Begins with Fast and Silence

Even as Bali celebrates Nyepi, life stands still and quietude descends on this one of its kind 'Day of Silence'. The Balinese Hindus believe that before ushering in the New Year, one should meditate for self introspection, which can be achieved by observing a fast, and maintaining silence with very little movement inside the house and none at all outside-virtually closing the gates, switching off light and fire for the day. Pecalang or the local security patrol the roads and allow only emergency vehicles to pass. The airport is closed and tourists visiting Bali, too, observe this silence.

Four Days of Celebrating Nyepi

The New Year celebrations begin two days before Nyepi and goes on for four days. On the first day, a cleansing ritual takes place. On this day people bathe their household deity and themselves in the ocean and seek the blessing of the ocean god Varuna to purify their body and souls to embrace the coming year.

The next day is Tawur Kesanga or Tawur Agung when the effigy of evil Bhuta Kala is burnt. Huge demon-like creatures, the Ogoh-ogoh, made of bamboo, are paraded around the village amidst fanfare to ward off evil and purify everyone and in the evening burnt in the street corner.

The third day is Nyepi, the New Year - a day of silence and no activity, a day to contemplate and cleanse the mind and body.

The fourth day Ngembak Geni is spent in prayers. This is also a day when friends and family gather to meet and celebrate.

Hinduism in Bali

The Balinese people practice a form of Hinduism which they call Agama Hindu Dharma or 'Religion of the Hindu Doctrine', also called Agama Tirtha or 'Religion of the Holy Waters', representing a combination of foreign Hindu and Buddhist elements.

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