The world is a global place and with varied interests and beliefs. Some of us party on December 31st in full throttle to bring in the New Year while others celebrate in silence. The Balinese New Year is called Nyepi, which is a day of silence. This custom is regarded by all citizens of the island nation to bring in the New Year. The calendar systems used by the Balinese for religious purposes is indeed much different from the Gregorian calendar used worldwide.
There are two calendar systems followed by the Balinese, Pawukon and Sasih. In Pawukon it begins from Sinta and ends at Watugunung, it has ritual calendar markings of two hundred and ten days, which many historians say is a culture of the Java locals brought to Bali in the early fourteenth century. This is a concept based on numerology which allows for performing of rituals and ceremonies in the island nation of Bali. In the case of Sasih, it is a little similar to that of the Indian culture with twelve months following the lunar cycle, starting at the vernal equinox and is a time when the deities are worshipped with high respect.
Nyepi day is also called the day of silence, and is on the day of dark moon. This also is similar to the Hindu way of belief that started around 78 AD; the time of the spring equinox is thus revered with great respect till date. The belief is that on this day of silence, one needs to focus on the inner self and observe introspection in order to maintain a balance and harmony with Mother Nature.
As Nyepi arrives, there are other ceremonies and rituals that fall in its path, such as the “Melasti or Mekiyis or Melis”. This is a time when the deity statues are cleansed with symbols. Sources and customs say, by doing this, the bond between the supreme and the human grows closer. Another ritual performed would be the “Tawur Kesanga”. Done just a day before Nyepi, an exorcism to drive out negative and evil influences is held at main village cross roads, which is supposed to be a haunt for evil and negative forces, namely demons.
Usually effigies of the demons made of bamboo and clothes are put up on the cross roads, which are called “Ogoh-ogoh”. The effigies are influences of the old Balinese folklore or even negative forces that have harmed Mother Nature in the past. With huge fangs on each of them and round bulging eyes, they are offered to the flames, while the processions take beat with high pitched folk songs.
It is the youth that perform the rituals for burning the effigies and turns the procession into a carnival of sorts enjoyed by all onlookers. This ensures that there is a perfect peaceful balance between the supreme and humans. Finally we have Nyepi, where everyone goes into recluse for 24 hours and maintain silence to honor the coming of the New Year in Bali. Om santi santi Om.