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Nyepi - The Balinese day of Silence

Every religion or culture all over the world has their own way to define and celebrate their new year based on their own calendar system. While most people in the world use the Gregorian calendar and celebrate their New Year on January 1st in revelry, Balinese use Saka calendar and celebrate their New Year in silence in a day which is called Nyepi day. The Balinese day of Silence falls on the day following the dark moon of the spring equinox (in 2013, it falls on March 11st), and opens a new year of the Saka Hindu era which began in 78 A.D.

A deserted street at Nyepi in Legian area, Bali.

A deserted street at Nyepi in Legian area, Bali.

Nyepi is a day of silence, fasting and meditation for the Balinese. This Hindu celebration mainly celebrated in Bali, Indonesia. It is based on the story of when King Kaniska I of India was chosen in 78 A.D. The King was famous for his wisdom and tolerance for the Hinduism and Buddhism societies. In that age, Aji Saka did Dharma Yatra (the missionary tour to promote and spread Hinduism) to Indonesia and introduces the Saka year.

Balinese will perform some rituals before, during and after the Nyepi day, they are:

Nyepi is a day reserved for self-reflection and as such, anything that might interfere with that purpose is restricted. The main restrictions are: no lighting fires (and lights must be kept low); no working; no entertainment or pleasure; no traveling; and for some, no talking or eating at all. The effect of these prohibitions is that Bali’s usually bustling streets and roads are empty, there is little or no noise from TVs and radios, and few signs of activity are seen even inside homes. The only people to be seen outdoors are the Pecalang who patrol the streets to ensure the prohibitions are being followed.

Although Nyepi is primarily a Hindu holiday, non-Hindu residents of Bali observe the day of silence as well, out of respect for their fellow citizens. Even tourists are not exempt; although free to do as they wish inside their hotels, no one is allowed onto the beaches or streets, and the only airport in Bali remains closed for the entire day. The only exceptions granted are for emergency vehicles carrying those with life-threatening conditions and women about to give birth.