While much of the world parties into the New Year on December 31, Bali kicks off with a mandatory total switch off and reboot in March.
The Balinese New Year falls on the spring equinox, which was last Saturday. Nyepi is a day that the Hindu Balinese dedicate completely to connect more deeply with God through prayer, fasting and meditation, as well as self reflection to evaluate personal values such as love, truth, patience, kindness, and generosity. Therefore no work can be done, all roads need to be free from vehicles and people. Everyone must stay indoors and keep activities to a minimum, including the cooking of meals and listening to music. No fire or light is allowed, including electricity, curtains are drawn. There are no flights landing or taking off. Bali is closed, you can't even see it from space. In fact, the point is to pretend that it does not exist in order to fool any evil from considering paying it a visit.
Community groups, including a lot of kids, each spend days creating the ugliest and baddest monster puppet they can muster. Others create something more philosophical with various characters depicting stories of good over evil gracing the hand carried bamboo floats. The eve of Nyepi, these monsters are carried out to sea or to a community area and then burned to symbolise the cleansing of all bad things in the past year. Then, the day after Nyepi, families and friends gather to ask forgiveness from each another, and to perform religious rituals together.
During Nyepi, the only sounds were crickets, chickens, birds and the two cats that play in the guesthouse I am staying in.
I love this concept. There is something to be said for starting a new year with self reflection and forgiveness rather than a hangover....
Middle: Jason Lunn www.jasonlunn.com, Andrew Foldesi