Lonely Planet Writer

As Bali falls silent for Nyepi, here's everything you need to know about the Hindu celebration

The entire island of Bali will fall silent tomorrow to mark Nyepi, the Hindu celebration of the New Year.

The ritual is designed in the hope they can become a better person for the next year.
The ritual is designed in the hope they can become a better person for the next year. Image by NurPhoto / Contributor

Anybody on the island on 28 March, including foreign visitors, will have to observe the day. The Gusti Ngurah Rai International Airport is closed to all flights for 24 hours from 6am and nobody will be allowed on the beaches or the streets. The only exception to this are security guards and emergency vehicles.

While visitors are free to do whatever they wish inside, most Balinese people will spend the day in silence, or nearly so, allowing time for self-reflection and possibly fasting. Lights will mostly be kept off or very low and nobody will be working.

Balinese Hindu prepare an effigy known as "Ogoh-Ogoh" before a parade in Denpasar.
Balinese Hindu prepare an effigy known as “Ogoh-Ogoh” before a parade in Denpasar. Image by SONNY TUMBELAKA/AFP/Getty Images

The day before Nyepi, the Bhuta Yajna ritual is observed in Hindu villages throughout the island. Locals build ogoh-ogohs, demonic effigies that will be paraded through the streets and later burned to banish evil spirits and restore balance. People will run through making lots of noise and feasting and dancing will take place on the streets afterwards, a stark balance to the Day of Silence that follows afterwards.

While some visitors avoid the island during Nyepi due to the restrictions, others consider it a once-in-a-lifetime experience and after enjoying the raucous festivities, use the day for relaxation or contemplation. Most hotels will continue their facilities as normal but it’s advised to bring a book to help pass the time and ensure your accommodation is still serving meals. Due to restrictions, many hotels offer heavy discounts to stay during the festival.

The Melasti ceremony is held before Nyepi as purification ritual.
The Melasti ceremony is held before Nyepi as purification ritual. Image by NurPhoto / Contributor

On Wednesday 29 March, business will return as usual to the island and many Hindus on the island will pay visits to the homes of families and friends to ask for forgiveness for past deeds and enjoy a feast of traditional Balinese foods.

While Nyepi is a public holiday everywhere in Indonesia, Bali is the only island where the rituals of silence are strictly observed.

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