Sunday, March 6, 2011

Balinese New Year, part II Ogoh Ogoh & Nyepi

Selamat Hari Raya Nyepi Tahun Baru Saka 1933!!! Happy Balinese New Year!!!

Yesterday we experienced Nyepi the day of silence. Everything on Bali is about balance between: good & bad, yin & yang, black & white etc. This symbolism is shown in all rituals, so also during Nyepi. Nyepi symbolizes good, silence and self-reflection and this is balanced with Ogoh-Ogoh the day before.

Ogoh-Ogoh’s are statues built for the Ngrupuk parade, which takes place on the eve before Nyepi day. Ogoh-Ogoh’s have the form of mythological beings, mostly demons. The main purpose of the making of Ogoh-Ogoh is the purification of the natural environment of any spiritual poisons released from the activities of living beings (especially humans). They are made from wood and bamboo, covered with papier-mâché and Styrofoam. They are then painted with garish colours. Every Banjar (sub village) makes their own Ogoh-Ogoh and we saw them building the statues already 4 weeks ago everywhere along the streets. In the slide show below we show the Ogoh-Ogoh’s we found the most impressive.

We heard a couple of stories about the symbolism of Ogoh-Ogoh and Nyepi. One entails that the people during Ogoh-Ogoh make a big show with a lot of noise from the gamelan, firecrackers and the performance with the statues. This is to please the bad and dark spirits. Before the performance the men also drink arak, the Balinese wine/spirit. Nyepi – the day of silence – is for the people to please the good spirits through silence and meditation.
The second version of the symbolism is that with the performance, music and firecrackers during Ogoh-Ogoh, the bad and dark spirits are scarred away and leave the island. When they return on Nyepi day they will think the island is completely abandoned, because of the silence and empty streets.

For the Ogoh-Ogoh we also joined Janur in her village, like we did with the Melasti ceremony. There were 13 Banjars celebrating together. The statues were first carried in one big parade to a central place within the village, where the Ogoh-Ogoh performances were performed. At the intersections each statue had to be rotated 3 times to confuse the bad spirits. After arriving at the central place the performance started. Each Banjar had chosen a story out of the Balinese mythology. The Ogoh-Ogoh was also built by inspiration of the chosen story. The video below gives an impression of the performances. Each performance was around 20 minutes, meaning we were watching 13 times 20 minutes. The complete evening was impressive, but a bit long for our legs and tummy. Luckily after the performances each Banjar goes back to their own central building to enjoy traditional Balinese food, and we loved it.

Pictures from the Ogoh-Ogoh evening :-)

On our way home from the Ogoh-Ogoh we were sometimes hold up by other Ogoh-Ogoh’s still performing in villages. By the time we came home it was already 1am and we could see and feel that the day of silence was already starting. We almost didn’t recognize our way back home, because everything was totally dark: no traffic lights, no streetlights, no shop signs or headlights were on and it was already silent in our neighbourhood. Very fascinating. But staying outside too long is illegal and can get cost you a fine, so we went inside and stayed the next 30 hours.

The next morning we couldn’t set an alarm, because hey, that makes noise of course, so we could do nothing else but sleep ;-). We love the idea of a day in complete silence, but still I guess our day looked a little bit different than for a Balinese family. Out of respect for the culture and our neighbours we kept to the rituals as much as possible. Although we also made our own special day out of it, which entailed that we didn’t keep all the ‘don’ts’ of the day. We watched several movies on the laptop with earplugs, we used some lights after dark and we used fire to cook our dinner.
Because we never cook our own dinner here (because of the high prices for food compared to eat outside), we enjoyed the fact that we were forced to eat inside. We opened a bottle of red wine left from when we had our families over and we had a nice candlelight dinner ;-)

We unfortunately still kept on to many lights for a while in the evening without really being aware of it. It disturbed our neighbours and they knocked on our door to ask us to turn of the light (Sorry!!). When there is NO light and sound whatsoever on the whole island, you are very sensitive for any light or sound. We were told the stars would be magnificent in the evening and luckily after raining almost the complete day, it dried up and we could see the stars from our small garden.

We are very happy to be able to experience Nyepi here on Bali and all that came with it. Bali has got worldwide recognition for this day of silence, as they want to have a day of silence in the complete world. This is because it saves a lot of energy, which is a great way to make us aware of the environment. And it gives people time and possibility to self-reflection. We would love to see this happen. We think that this is a great signal to all of us wherever we are and no matter how we fill in the day. Just to be aware and use 1 day a year to pull the breaks and do nothing :-)

Here you see the kids in Janur's village with their own selfmade Ogoh Ogoh. They carried it themselves and danced around just like the grownups to the gamelan orchestra before the big parade started. It's a bit similar to the carnival back home, the kids of course LOVE it :-)


  1. weer heerlijk om dit allemaal te zien !
    Iris ik wens jou een goede reis morgen naar Singapore, geniet en vermaak je . En ik ben benieuwd naar de foto's . liefs

  2. dit is Julia die het schreef - ta daaaaaaaa.......