Imagine a Day where you could connect and nest as a family with no screens, no cars and no lights in the evening.
Well that’s what we have just experienced here in Bali for Nyepi, the Balinese Day of Silence. A beautiful day to reflect, replenish and watch nature come alive as noise and air pollution is at a halt.
Nyepi (pronounced Nyea-pee) marks the start of the Balinese Caka New Year and falls during a new moon. This year Nyepi also fell on the same day as a solar eclipse, so it was quite remarkable. This was our third Nyepi since we moved to Bali.
From 6am on March 9 until 6am on March 10, everyone in Bali was expected to stay in the premises of their homes (and gardens) and keep noise to a minimum. The goal is to rest, reconnect and reflect on the past year. Tourists must stay in their hotel facilities. Satellite TV stops transmitting. The airport and ports are closed. Hospitals and police stations are still open, but everything else is shut.
I was the first up on Nyepi morning, mainly because I wanted to see the solar eclipse. I enjoyed almost an hour of stillness just watching the dragonflies and birds dancing over the rice paddies while I sat on the porch and wrote my morning pages. With Mount Agung peeking over in the horizon and the partial solar eclipse slowly moving over, I woke Duncan and Finley up to see the partial solar eclipse through our homemade solar eclipse viewer.
Duncan went back to bed while Finley played on her own while I read and wrote and then we did some craft projects, read books and played games eventually waking Duncan up and we had a picnic lunch on the porch. There was a lot of “sshhhhhh”” going on with Finley who seemed to need to shout everything, but other than that the day was very replenishing, although I will be honest it felt like a very long day, but relaxing nonetheless.
No lights are supposed to be on in the evening. Sun goes down at 7pm. There are exceptions for those with small children and older family members. We opted to camp in Finley’s bedroom. We put the spare beds out and told stories about far away dragons and fairies and ate popcorn by candlelight. We also went into our garden to look at the full blanket of stars that were visible due to no air or light pollution. Shooting stars, planets – all visible in a mesmerizing umbrella of constellations above our head. The way our skies are supposed to look. It was mind-blowing.
My Bahasa Indonesian language teacher explained to me that Nyepi was an all-important time of year for families to come together and have a chance to chit-chat. As the name suggests, the day of silence, it doesn’t necessarily literally refer to not speaking but instead to just being and radiating an inner silence. Of not doing, but just being with those you love.
The traditional Balinese Hindu Nyepi rituals include what is known as Catur Brata Penyepian – the Four Nyepi Prohibitions of no fire, no travel, no activity and no entertainment. All which help towards meditation, purification and reflection.
Ogoh Ogoh Parades And The Night of Noise-Making
The eve of Nyepi is for making lots of noise to cast out all the evil spirits before the day of Silence with the Ogoh Ogoh Parade. The ogoh ogohs are large, hand-made demon-like effigies that children and youth make together. Ogoh Ogoh are carried by groups of children or men and put on bamboo slatted poles and carried through the streets in a torchlit parade with gamelan bands following behind. It’s a noisy and quite incredible display – one that was all too much for Finley and we had to take her home from our local village parade as she was, quite literally, terrified! Evil spirits are thought to be found at the crossroads of each village, so the parades stop at each intersection to throw the Ogoh Ogoh’s up and down to try and ‘destroy’ them – oftentimes the head of the statue will come off and the crowd will cheer in delight.
The belief is that the day of silence is to trick all the evil spirits into thinking everyone has gone from the earth. On Nyepi eve offerings of rice and treats are left outside of family compounds and shops to ‘feed’ the Ogoh-Ogoh and there is lots of bashing of pots and pans and bamboo sticks to scare off the evil spirits.
Finley and her class at Green School carrying their own handmade Ogoh Ogoh.
For our family, Nyepi is a celebration of reconnecting and just being. The experience is definitely challenging, particularly with a young (less than quiet) family, but it is definitely one worth experiencing at least once in your lifetime.
I think we can learn so much from Nyepi and enjoy a similar experience wherever you live in the world. Would you like to start your own Nyepi practice once a year? Share your thoughts with me in the comments below.