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Friday, June 2, 2023

How Bali celebrates the Hindu New Year & Nyepi “Day of Silence”

The start of the “Caka” year – the Balinese New Year is celebrated by the Hindus over a period of six days. Nyepi is a day for the Hindu Balinese to dedicate themselves completely to connect more deeply with God (Hyang Widi Wasa) through prayer, fasting and meditation. Acts of introspection of the Self, to evaluate the personal values they would bring into the new year.

The day following Nyepi is also celebrated as New Year’s Day. After nyepi, the youth of Bali in the village of Sesetan in South Bali practice the ceremony of Omed-omedan or ‘The Kissing Ritual’ to celebrate the new year.

Contrary to several other cultures all around the world who celebrate the New Year with dynamic and sparkling festivities, the crowning point of the Balinese New Year 6 day celebration is a day dedicated to complete silence – Nyepi.

In this article, we will share the observations of RK Hebbar, who recently visited Bali on the occasion of Nyepi. According to him, 21st March is Day of purification of Utsava Murthy of temple, Murthy is taken out to Sea and taken back to temple after purification rituals.

Procession has music, ‘Kalashagittiyaru’ carrying Kalasha, Men in white, women in colourful traditional dresses.

Hinduism in very much alive in Bali and doing really well. We can witness huge influence of Ramayana and Mahabharata in their names, beliefs and floklore. Almost every house has a family temple in the front portion of their house or, and just like Tulisikatte in India, they have Devara katte here.

Most temples are almost identical in their outer look. Other than Balinese Hindus, nobody else is allowed inside the temple, and this has been followed very strictly. At some temples, to go to outer area of temple itself visitors should wear traditional lungi (called as Sheron), which is again a mandatory requirement according to the local customs.

At most temples it’s very common to see a notice that menstruating women are not allowed.

Bali is a very neat and clean Island. People come across as very nice And genuine and it is one of the safest areas in the world. You will be disappointed if you expect temple architecture like in Belur/Halebeedu. Temple architecture is modest, but beautifully located, very well marketed.

Our guide also informed us that basics of Hinduism is taught to children at schools, and every school has a Saraswathi statue. We saw students and youngsters involved in cleaning temple premises and preparing effigy for the celebration/procession scheduled on 21st March.

On 21st March, day on which processions are taken out, people enjoyed good food and drinks after the procession. Rituals end with animals like chicken, dog, pig and cow sacrificed in public as offering to evil spirit (effigy) not to disturb peaceful life.

Lets have a glimpse of the traditional Balinese dance.

At temples , teerta is given like here. Akshaye is also given, which devotee can put on head, put it as bindi also.

Beef is consumed by most of the people. As per couple of people i spoke to, even priests eat meat, in some cases beef also. According to them, they aren’t supposed to eat beef, and people or saints who meditate and offer puja don’t eat meat or beef.

A typical Pooja kit looks like this, which contains flowers and agarabattis. I also saw people keeping biscuit and chocolate in this kit as offering. People usually keep this kit outside, after performing prayer at home or shop.

Bali tourism is very well marketed and Indians must learn from their marketing strategy. Our trip was fulfilling with visit to major temples and witnessing the Bali culture and their celebrations. At one temple, we were able to offer prayer as well.

Overall, the trip was amazing and we were elated to see the way local people have preserved their Hindu culture and customs.

(This article has been compiled from the tweet thread posted by @RK_Hebbar on March 22, 2023, with minor edits to improve readability and conform to HinduPost style guide)

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  1. Bali is an Indonesian island. I wonder how Hinduism is thriving in a Muslim-dominated country like Indonesia. Is it because Indonesian Muslims are more tolerant? Or is it the charm and nobility of the great religion that is Hinduism?
    I wholeheartedly wish for the thriving of Hindu-Muslim combined culture and religious openness that can bring about fusion of these two epic religions.


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