Sunday, 8 March 2009

Bali New Year: 26-27 March 2009

Balinese New Year, known as Nyepi, will take place from Thursday 26 March to Friday 27 March 2009.

Local custom requires that all people in Bali observe a day of silence from 6am on Thursday 26 March 2009 until 6am Friday 27 March 2009.

Westerners open the New Year in revelry, however, in contrast, the Balinese open their New Year in silence. This is called Nyepi Day, the Balinese day of Silence, which falls on the day following the dark moon of the spring equinox, and opens a new year of the Saka Hindu era which began in 78 A.D.

Nyepi is a day to make and keep the balance of nature. It is based on the story of when King Kaniska I of India was chosen in 78 A.D. The King was famous for his wisdom and tolerance for the Hinduism and Buddhism societies. In that age, Aji Saka did Dharma Yatra (the missionary tour to promote and spread Hinduism) to Indonesia and introduce the Saka year.

Authorities require that all people in Bali stay indoors, make no noise and switch off all lights for the duration of this period. The Balinese Hindus consider “Nyepi” to be the most important day on the religious calendar and the prohibitions are taken very seriously.

During this 24-hour period, tourists must remain in their hotels and should seek the advice of hotel management regarding movement around the hotel grounds. Balinese across the island strictly observe this tradition and people leaving their homes or hotels between 6am on Thursday 26 March and 6am on Friday 27 March are at risk of being forcibly returned to their homes or hotels by Balinese traditional village level security personnel (Pecalangs).

This is an important cultural event for the people of Bali. Tourists are urged to be sensitive and strictly observe local custom to avoid giving offence.

Exemptions on movement will only be provided to emergency service vehicles and personnel.

The airport will be closed during this 24-hour period for all domestic and international flights with last destination and first departure from Bali. Only transit, overfly, technical landing and emergency landing flights are allowed, but these flights will not be allowed to take any passengers with last destination in Bali or departure from Bali during this period. The airline crews and passengers who are in transit during this period are required to stay inside the Ngurah Rai Airport.

Harbours around Bali will also be closed from 6am on Thursday 26 March until 6am on Friday 27 March.

On Nyepi day itself, every street is quiet - there are nobody doing their normal daily activities. There is usually Pecalangs (traditional Balinese security man) who controls and checks for street security. Pecalang wear a black uniform and a Udeng or Destar (a Balinese traditional "hat" that is usually used in ceremony). The Pecalangs main task is not only to control the security of the street but also to stop any activities that disturb Nyepi. No traffic is allowed, not only cars but also people, who have to stay in their own houses. Light is kept to a minimum or not at all, the radio or TV is turned down and, of course, no one works.

Even love making, this ultimate activity of all leisure times, is not supposed to take place, nor even attempted. The whole day is simply filled with the barking of a few dogs, the shrill of insect and is a simple long quiet day in the calendar of this otherwise hectic island.

On Nyepi the world expected to be clean and everything starts anew, with Man showing his symbolic control over himself and the "force" of the World, hence the mandatory religious control.

We learn something new every day, get to experience something about a new culture and learn - also - what not to do, living here in Singapore.

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