Celebration, joy, fun, and get-togethers – these words are synonymous with New Year celebrations. But in one of the provinces of this Southeast Asian country of Indonesia, silence is the way of celebrations.
Bali is an Indonesian island famous for its tourist-friendly destinations. Balinese people usher into the New Year based on the traditional calendar Saka by observing a day of silence, meditation, and prayerfulness. Unbelievable, right?!
This tradition is called Nyepi translates into ‘day of silence’. The word Nyepi means to be still or quiet in the Indonesian language. Balinese people take this day very seriously. It usually falls in March. Bali’s only airport remains shut on this day, no one arrives or departs, the cars and vehicles are off the roads, the lights are off, the doors to the houses are closed and entry to other public places such as beaches, markets, scenic tourist spots is shut. Balinese people sit with themselves and reflect upon human values such as humanity, love, patience, and kindness. Now, isn’t that what the world truly needs today?
There is a story behind the origin of this tradition, which dates back to 78 AD. It is said that King Kanishka I of India, who belonged to the Kushan dynasty, was responsible for spreading this celebration to Java when his kingdom people visited Indonesia. Later, it spread to Bali. Nyepi is a tradition that has been recognized only in Bali since the 14th century.
Months and weeks before Nyepi, Balinese people begin the preparations. A few days before the day of silence, they clean the houses, altars, and then as a symbolic expression of warding off negativity, the youth burn effigies of demon-like creatures amidst loud music and revelry. Then comes the day of silence. After Nyepi, there is a small get-together of family and friends where each one seeks forgiveness from others.
This meaningful celebration has stayed around for years now. The youngsters of Bali say that they are going to preserve their culture and continue the practices their ancestors had set up.