Life stops in Bali as Hindus celebrate Day of Silence

A procession of Balinese Hindus walk along a beach during Melasti in, Bali, Indonesia, on March 25, 2017. Source: Reuters/Agung Parameswara

EARTH HOUR may have seen cities across Indonesia go dark for an hour on Saturday night, but all of Bali will go without noise, activity or electricity for 24 hours on Tuesday.

The “Day of Silence” marks the Balinese Hindu new year, a six-day celebration which generally falls in March and is a public holiday across Indonesia. On the day reserved for self-reflection, people are forbidden from using lights, working, travelling and lighting fires.

Most of Indonesia’s Hindu population live on the island of Bali, in what is the largest Muslim-majority nation on earth.

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Nyepi festivities started on Saturday for Melasti, when Balinese carried sacred objects from Hindu temples into the sea for blessings and purification.

On Monday, the night before Hari Raya Nyepi, large statues of Balinese demons named Ogoh-Ogoh were paraded through the streets before being lit on fire and ritualistically destroyed.

The Day of Silence is intended to ward off evil spirits – the belief is that if Bali remains quiet, the spirits will think it uninhabited and fly over the island.

Local watchmen known as Pecalang roam the streets ensuring everybody complies with the rules of Nyepi. Roads, shops, restaurants and beaches are closed and off-limits for Balinese people and tourists alike.

Denpasar International Airport, the country’s third busiest as the gateway to the tourist island, will be shut for 24 hours from 6am on Tuesday.

The day following Nyepi is known as Ngembak Geni, when families gather to perform religious rituals and ask for forgiveness from each other.

Many businesses in the tourist hotspot delivered their best wishes to Balinese observers of Nyepi via social media.

The Australian Consulate-General in Bali alerted its citizens to the holiday, urging them to show respect for Balinese cultural traditions.

Jakarta’s governor sent his best wishes via Instagram.

Even the Indonesian capital was quiet during the Nyepi public holiday, reported one netizen.

Last Friday, US President Donald Trump’s Indonesian business partner Hary Tanoesoedibjo announced a proposed “six-star” hotel and golf resort would respect Hindu traditions considering community opposition to the development.

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He had previously denied any existing problems with the local community.

The resort is refurbishing an existing hotel complex near the Tanah Lot temple, a sensitive cultural and spiritual site for many Balinese.

Tanoesoedibjo’s MNC Group aims to start operations at the resort in 2019 or 2020, said a company official.

**This story first appeared on Asian Correspondent.