NYEPI: THE SILENT START TO THE SAKA NEW YEAR
We’re making March a month of mindfulness and we want you to join us!
We are all accustomed to the ways we ring in the New Year in the west—sparkling parties and street gatherings, fireworks shooting into the skies while confetti, balloons and glittering disco balls rain down. Our friends in Bali are observing their New Year today and they will mark this occasion very differently. From 6:00AM this morning until 6:00PM at night, a vibrant country will become completely quiet and still. In Bali, the start of the Saka New Year is a national day of meditative silence—twelve hours of uninterrupted mindfulness for absolutely everyone.
There’s nothing quite like it anywhere else in the world. On the Day of Silence, the streets are completely empty except for the occasional ambulance or police patrol and the traditional community watch groups (pecalang) enforcing the rules of Nyepi. These rules are the Four Nyepi Prohibitions: amati geni (no fire), amati lelungan (no travel), amati Karya (no activity) and amati lelanguan (no entertainment). Every shop, restaurant and office is closed, no lights are turned on at night, everyone stays in their homes and tourists are respectfully confined to their hotels.
The Day of Silence gives people an opportunity to meditate, reflect and relax with those they love. It is also meant to give the natural world a break from humanity. With no traffic noise or pollution, no artificial lights to dim the stars and no people crowding the beaches and lands, the earth has a respite and a day of renewal as well. It’s an extraordinary exercise in mindfulness and a completely unique way to start a New Year.
Of course, the Day of Silence is preceded by three days of the mesmerizing and magical celebration typical of beautiful Bali. The Melasti pilgrimages bring pilgrims bearing heirlooms from village temples all over the country to the beaches of Bali for purification ceremonies. Holding brightly colored parasols and dressed in white, processions make their way to the water. And the night before the Day of Silence, Balinese families make their way to the temples for blessings and take part in the raucous traditional pengrupukan ceremony. Banging pots and pans, firing bamboo cannons and waving torches, people scare away malevolent spirits. Stunning puppets of these spirits, called the ogoh-ogoh, are paraded through the streets.
But today, all is still in Bali. It is a very special day, and we wish our Balinese friends a Rahajeng Warsa Sane Anyar (Happy New Year)!
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