Sunday, March 25, 2012


New Year's Day in Bali--  

Here we are, in Ubud, the cultural heart and soul of Bali, reporting on Nyepi, the traditional Balinese New Year, and the Ogah Ogah festivities on the day prior to New Year Day.

Nyepi must be the most unusual new year celebration anywhere in the world. Of course, Bali is a small island with many events and occurrences found nowhere else in the world, but, that said, here comes Nyepi.   

On this day the island goes dark and quiet in order to
fool the evil spirits, who fly overhead, into thinking there is no island below. So--from 6:00 Friday morning until 6:00 Saturday morning no one is allowed on the streets, even tourists; the airport is closed; some towns turn off electricity: the satellite TV service is cut off; and everyone must be quiet. For tourists this is a popular time to go to a resort hotel for a couple of days, and for locals, they stay home and maintain an aura of quietude, meditation and fasting. The only people allowed on the streets are the Pecalang, or religious police, who are very strict about enforcing the Nyepi laws. This year was our third Nyepi and we are still highly impressed by the vigilance and dedication of the people to adhere to the confines of the holiday.
The adherence of the Balinese to their religious beliefs is all-pervasive and ubiquitous. Every day, in every house and at every business, offerings to the gods are made and laid out front--I stress--every day (except Nyepi). The sheer number of temples and celebrations that take place every day is amazing, and the young people, who are as hip and and aware as any young people anywhere in Asia, do not eschew the religious beliefs, but embrace them, alongside all the modern cultural doings.

This is a Hindu society, but with a Balinese twist, which includes Buddhism and animism. There is a large population of Muslims, and some Christians on the Island but they all get along and do and admirable job of respecting each others beliefs.

And, now,--the day before Nyepi--

So what are these monsters? They are the ogah ogahs, and they form the heart of the day before Nyepi, which is a most joyous and festive day and night. For weeks before Nyepi. in villages all over Bali, the young people make these monsters out of bamboo, wire, styrofoam and papier-mache', and on the afternoon and evening before Nyepi, the ogah ogahs are paraded around every town on bamboo poles to the accompaniment of kids and teens making a lot of noise with instruments, and anything they can bang together. Why? You may ask? Well, in order to scare away the evil spirits, silly.

 I spent the afternoon before Nyepi driving around, taking pictures of the monsters, and what a great communal feeling in the villages!
Late in the afternoon when the kids pick up the monsters to parade them around, the warm feelings among everyone is contagious, and locals and expats and tourists alike get totally into it. We really love this time!

After all this work and fun, in order to complete the purging of evil spirits, the monsters are set aside and burned, although, some remain in the villages for a while after Nyepi.

 Scroll down to see the rest of the photos, and you can see the full day's worth of picture-taking by following this link: 
Hope you like them.

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