24 Hours of silence and inactivity mark Balinese New Year

On the Balinese New Year, also called Nyepi Day, the island stops traffic, turns off lights, and observes a full day of inactivity in silence.

March 11, 2024, marks the Balinese New Year, known as Nyepi Day in the local Saka Calendar. In Bali’s native tongue, Nyepi means ‘to go silent’, reflecting the essence of this unique celebration. Nyepi Day is observed with a complete 24-hour shutdown, including the suspension of public transport, closed ATMs, and an inactive airport, with strict penalties for any violations.

This year, Nyepi Day will fall on Monday, March 11, 2024.

Nyepi Day: How locals celebrate the Balinese New Year

nyepi day
Ogoh-Ogoh parade, a part of the Pengerupukan ritual conducted on the eve of Nyepi Day. Image Credit: saiko3p/Shutterstock

Nyepi is a day dedicated to spiritual reflection and connection with God (Hyang Widi Wasa). It involves prayers and introspection to reaffirm values such as humanity, love, patience, and kindness. As a day of meditation and self-awareness, all activities that disrupt this purpose are prohibited.

Starting at 6 am on March 11, Bali’s Day of Silence lasts for 24 hours. During this time, both tourists and residents are required to stay within their hotels and homes, respectively. Ngurah Rai International Airport remains closed for the entire day, making it the only airport worldwide to shut down for religious reasons. Additionally, daily chores are suspended, and public transport is unavailable except for emergency services. On Nyepi Day, all lights must be turned off, and traditional New Year celebrations such as singing, dancing, and music are forbidden.

Despite the restrictions, locals participate in the Pengerupukan ritual on the eve of Nyepi Day. This ritual, rooted in Balinese mythology, features the vibrant Ogoh-Ogoh parade, processions, and traditional dances. Giant papier-mâché figures symbolising evil spirits and demons are paraded on the beach, accompanied by lively gamelan music, before being ceremoniously torched to rid the island of negativity and misfortune from the past year.

However, during this time, roads along the parade route are closed, posing challenges for tourists trying to reach their hotels.

Making the most of Nyepi Day as a tourist

While spending 24 hours in near-lockdown may not seem ideal for a day in Bali, there are several ways to maximise your experience. Consider it an opportunity for meditation, introspection, and a digital detox. Alternatively, take advantage of the day by hopping on a ferry to explore a nearby island. During Nyepi Day 2021, over 1,000 expats travelled to Gili Trawangan, Lombok, to avoid the celebratory restrictions in Bali. Keep in mind that you must depart before Nyepi, as no ferries operate on that day.

If you’re staying at a plush resort in Bali, you can indulge in the amenities available. Enjoy a swim, explore the property, and have a picnic on the resort grounds. However, note that the menu options may be limited to pre-prepared delicacies, as hotel staff do not cook or clean rooms on Nyepi.

Feature image credit: Khoroshunova Olga/Shutterstock 

This article first appeared in Travel+Leisure Thailand.



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