Three of the main Ogoh-Ogoh in the parade
We had no idea Bali had its own new year, let alone that we were going to be around for it. We heard people say "you can't go outside for Nyepi, can't leave your house" but we didn't know what Nyepi was. The local band at a small reggae bar said "quick, everyone run to Gili," the party islands a short boat ride away. So what's the deal?
Nyepi is the Balinese new year, a Hindu tradition that the whole island observes, even the non-Hindus out of respect for their neighbors. The morning of new year's eve, the town gathers at the temple to make the sacrificial offering of a cow, in hopes to appease the gods and bring a good year to the village. Women who for days have been meticulously making small cups and plates out of palm and banana leaves, place their offerings of rice, flowers, wine, and incense throughout their courtyards and in front of every door of their home and business. For weeks beforehand, family groups work on creating large styrofoam statues of the worst demons (ogoh-ogoh) which they carry around town like floats in the new year's parade. Small ones go first, and they get bigger and badder as they go. After the parade, the demons are set aflame on the beach so that they might never come back. On Nyepi, new year's day, no one is allowed to venture outside, in an attempt to trick the lesser demons who are still around into believing that no one resides in the town. Temple guards patrol the streets making sure everyone is complying and no one is making too much noise. At night, no lights are allowed.
We had originally purchased boat tickets to Lombok on new years eve, apparently just like most of the tourists and all the people who would rather party than stay indoors all day. But a couple of locals we had met convinced us to stay to witness their culture and their celebration, and we wondered why we wanted to leave in the first place. Well, to be fair, we didn't know about the parade or that fire might be involved.
We were so glad we stayed. What an interesting slice of culture. We wore our batik sarongs and sashes, met a really cool group of travelers at the parade (we all kind of flocked together naturally), then joined the local men for an outdoor party with a live, local band playing some great covers. After they were done, we found another cover band, and we danced the night away drinking Arak, the local moonshine made of palm and sold illegally out of large water bottles. It tasted like brazil nuts mixed with rubbing alcohol. Mmmmmm.
The next day we read books and chatted with our new friends and some local guys while lounging around the pool (we made sure to find a place with a pool if we couldn't leave the hotel). Our other friends from next door eventually snuck over, and it turned out to be a great 'day of rest.' When it got dark and the lights went out, we slept. Happy Nyepi, everyone.
This is a typical offering, placed on the sidewalk in front of the home, or on a raised platform accompanied by burning incense. This one was found placed in front of our hotel room on the patio.
The sarong and sash accompany any religious event as well as any entry into a Hindu temple. The locals here really wanted tourists to participate and appreciated sharing their culture and traditions.
All us tourists enjoying the parade, sarongs and all.