Nyepi, AKA the Day of Silence, is observed by Balinese Hindus every year on the Island of Gods. As the name suggests, Nyepi is meant to be a day of complete silence and self-reflection,
Bali reopened to international tourism in earnest last year, and we have seen an increasing number of sunseekers flocking to the island. As such, this might be the first Nyepi experience for a lot of people currently in Bali.
Here’s what you need to know about Nyepi in Bali, including the dos and don’ts during this special day:
What is Nyepi?
Nyepi is a Hindu celebration that takes place in Bali every year in March, according to the Balinese calendar. This year, it falls on March 22, or this Wednesday,. Balinese Hindus are required to spend the whole day in complete silence while fasting to cleanse themselves of negative energy and renew their spirits for the year ahead.
What happens during Nyepi?
Virtually the entire island of Bali shuts down. No one is allowed to leave their homes, hotels, or villas, and all businesses are closed. Pecalang (Balinese traditional security officers) will be out on patrol to find anybody who threatens to disturb the peace and serenity of Nyepi by violating this rule.
There are also no lights, no music, and no noise allowed,. Even the island’s airport shuts down for the day. However, crucial public services, such as hospitals and fire departments, remain open for emergencies.
The day before Nyepi is known as Ngrupuk, during which people take to the streets to make noises to ward off evil spirits. Many tourists go out on the night before Nyepi to see the Balinese people parade around with ogoh-ogoh (handmade floats depicting demons and evil spirits) that truly show off locals’ creativity. More often than not, youths take part in the creation of these statues.
Once Nyepi starts, however, complete silence is expected, and people are not even allowed to use electricity or light candles.
So what are the dos and don’ts during Nyepi?
- Make sure you have enough food and drink supplies to last throughout the day, as no shops or restaurants will be open. In fact, it would be wise to buy groceries a couple of days ahead of time as supermarkets are often super packed the day before Nyepi
- ATMs usually go offline starting on the morning of the day before Nyepi – so you better hurry and withdraw cash, just in case
- Plan ahead and book your accommodations in advance, as many hotels and villas will be fully booked during this time
- Ahead of Nyepi you will likely come across street and road closures for traditional ceremonies. If this happens to you, please be patient and find another route. No need to argue with security officers
- Respect (with the capital R-E-S-P-E-C-T as Lady Aretha told us ages ago!) the Balinese people and their culture by observing the day of silence and fasting
- Stay inside your accommodation and avoid going out in public areas. If you are claustrophobic and have some the budget for it, people staying at some of the island’s major resorts and hotels are allowed to walk around inside the property during the day (still, when the sun goes down, you’ll have to stay in your room as all the lights will be switched off anyway)
- Try to turn off all lights and electronic devices during the day and night – especially if the light is clearly visible from the outside, as this would be considered a sign of disrespect.
- Leave your accommodation or villa, as this is strictly prohibited and can result in fines or penalties (not to mention internet shaming and, remember, hell hath no fury like Indonesian netizens scorned). Please don’t be like this guy who insisted on jogging outdoors during Nyepi Day and became very defensive as pecalang approached him. Remember, you are in their land – respect is the key word
- Make noise or play music, which are prohibited during Nyepi
- Use any form of transportation during the day, including cars, motorbikes, or bicycles
- Take any photographs or videos during Nyepi, as this is also considered disrespectful to the Balinese people
- Engage in any activities that disturb the peace and quiet of the day. It is literally only one day throughout the year, folks, so be patient.
Nyepi is an incredibly important event to the Balinese people, so it’s important to respect these customs and traditions. By following these dos and don’ts, you can have a peaceful and respectful Nyepi experience while also experiencing something truly unique about Balinese culture.
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