Nyepi marks the first day of the Saka New Year on the calendar that Balinese Hindus use. Although its date varies, Nyepi usually falls around March or April.
The day of silence is commemorated by restricting leisure and non-religious activities. People also honor this day in four ways: amati geni (not using fire or light), amati karya (not working), amati lelungan (not going outside), and amati lelanguan (avoiding entertainment).
The purpose of Nyepi is for Hindus to reflect, pray, and meditate. It serves as a reminder to pursue greater things in life, like spiritual enlightenment, doing good deeds, letting go of sinful ambitions, and seeking what is good and right in this world. Many Balinese Hindus also fast for 24 hours, while others avoid talking.
Even though the celebration is specific to Balinese Hindus, tourists traveling to the island are not exempt from the rules. Traditional officers called pecalang ensure that no one is out on the streets during the day of silence. They also go around neighborhoods to check if anyone turns the lights on or uses fire to cook.
Most businesses close on this day, except for accommodations and other important buildings that may need to remain open, such as hospitals and police stations. Radio and television broadcasts are turned off throughout the island. Some localities even shut down residents’ access to the Internet and turn off the electricity. This way, there are no distractions.
The day after Nyepi, the island comes back to life. Families visit one another or express forgiveness to start the year off fresh.
Balinese Hindus gather at temples and shrines to pray and receive blessings from elders, hoping for a better year ahead. Many are reminded of their religious duties to share their blessings with those in need and give to social programs or charities.
The day after Nyepi, often referred to as Ngembak Geni, is celebrated in various ways by different localities in Bali. Traditional performances, prayers, and festivals are held throughout the island.
This year is doubly special because the celebration of Nyepi coincides with Saraswati Day, or the “Day of Knowledge.” Many Balinese go straight to the beach with their offerings and receive special blessings.
Bali’s New Year may not have the merriment that exists in other areas on similar holidays, but the mindful, insightful meditation and silence that happen on this holiday may be what people need during a new beginning.
It’s about self-reflection, getting rid of negative energy, giving thanks, and thinking about how you might be a blessing for others.