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Sunday, March 13, 2011

Nyepi, Balinese Day of Silence

Prologue from Wikipedia: Nyepi is a Balinese "Day of Silence" that is commemorated every Isakawarsa (Saka new year) according to Bali's calendar (in 2011, it will be on March 5th). The main restrictions are: no lighting fires (and lights must be kept low); no working; no entertainment or pleasure; no traveling; and for some, no talking or eating at all. The effect of these prohibitions is that Bali’s usually bustling streets and roads are empty, there is little or no noise from TVs and radios, and few signs of activity are seen even inside homes. The only people to be seen outdoors are the Pecalang, traditional security men who patrol the streets to ensure the prohibitions are being followed.

5 March 2011

7 AM Bali Time: It's quiet. Absolute quiet. I can hear the sounds of the rain, the sounds of the birds chirping, the sounds of silence. This day it is prohibited to make loud sounds, so no dangdut or melayu music this morning, no motorcycle sounds, no children or any kind of unnatural sounds. As the neighbors around my house have conveniently leave for their friends and families houses, there are no sounds of human whatsoever.

The silence engulf me, leaving me awestruck and amazed. All of my days were seemed to be filled with noise from the outside: friends, families, strangers, TVs, music. Today, all TV or radio is off, I couldn't communicate by phone or internet without the risk of embarrassing myself as unfaithful (after all, I were specifically told to meditate and contemplate myself on this day, not leisuring around). So there I was, sitting on my porch, hearing myself and my conscience (I finally found her again after so long), enjoying the silence. The rain slowly starts to fall again.

9 AM Bali Time: My little brothers and sister already woke up and huddle with me in the living room. As they were only teenagers, I let them blast zombies on the computer. However, I strictly confiscate the modem and also hide my mobile phone (after put it in silence mode) to prevent any "Social Media" temptation. They were not allowed to venture outside the house as well, though several of their friends were seen wandering around (shortly before the Pecalang came).

At first, they were restless and agitated, however we manage to smooth things and end up laughing and talking about everything. Just like my new found conscience, this is also new for us. It is a rare thing to sit together and have a quality time with my family, as they all have their own agenda even in holidays (just like all "modern" people, I guess). I never realize how pleasant my brothers can be, and they were not God-sent annoying little critters. Not always. And yes, they see me in new light, not the ever-busy-angry-easily-miss-touchy. We're family, after all.

2 PM Bali Time: Time seems to stop. I felt like I've been living almost a week, perhaps even a month swayed in the silence. My brothers and sister have all but sleeping around on sofa and carpet, playing with my dog and cat, and then cuddle up with Mahabharata and Ramayana (they're running out of books and comics. period). It amaze me to see the clock barely strikes 2.

I can't tell you how enjoyable it is for me. Even in my holidays and leaves, I always manage to get "What?? It's this hour already??". But today I can't go out, not even to buy snacks from the nearby stores, or to wander around doing (un)essential things. Thus, my confinement makes the time stops ticking. And there are no TV or radio or other means to check with the time on the outside. I also don't need to ruin my emotion by reading or commenting rude remarks that so often exist in the internet. The outside world just doesn't (seem to) exist.

7 pm Bali Time: Darkness fell. No lights of whatsoever. But stars shining brightly, so brightly I lost my breath upon seeing them. No flashy neon lights, no over-bright house light, no light in any kind of form to distract the brightness of the stars. But no moon as it was new moon.

But I'm scared, dreadfully scared. I'm afraid of the dark, and Balinese horror stories pop up in my mind. The silence and total darkness engulf us and depressed us. We huddled together in my bedroom, all of us sleeping on my little bed, trying to calm each other and in time, pray to God that nothing will befall us till we fall asleep. So if I manage to find myself and my family through out the day, at night I found God. Quite productive for a day's work isn't it? :)

6 March 2011, 7 AM Bali Time.
The air and the world look so clear and beautiful. So pure. Cars and motors are back, people are back, but they looks much nicer. Perhaps not only the world has change and have time to purify herself, I have also purify myself, and perhaps also people around me. It's New Year already.

I know and fully aware that what we Balinese do at Nyepi is probably considered as "Impossible", and images of the horrid day probably sprang to mind. But we did this every year, and without hesitation or exemption. For nay-sayers, please consider these for a minute:
1. Silence is golden. In fact, it worth its weight in gold. Do you know how much major hotels and resort charge for their "exclusiveness", or in another word to keep as silence as possible for their esteemed patrons? In Bali it can range thousands of dollars for a night, yet at Nyepi we got it fairly free.

2. Finding Neverland. Discussing and have a quality time with yourself, your family, and your Creator may be quite like finding Neverland. It's there, but not everyone can find it. Of course, one may differ in this matter, and the so-called social creatures will never approve a day without their friends and peers (even in internet). But think about it, we use to have the quiet time in our mother's womb and it was quite good I think (have you seen an evil baby? Evilness don't come later, and I tend to think it as disease which is infected through other people. We learn to be bad). A bit of silence won't hurt you, just like a bit of fasting. You can always indulge later ;).

3. Earth's day off. Yes, this goes to you vegans and Greenpeace lovers and (so-called) green living addict. What better ways to help our ailing earth than to release her from her daily dose of pollution (sounds, lights, land, water, air, any kind of possible pollution in short). It's just one day, it's only in one area (Bali), but it helps a lot. Bali's Electrical Department (PLN) said they save almost USD 900,000 (IDR 8 Billion) for just one day, and they could have save a whole lot more if the electric-guzzling hotels and resorts join the silent celebration and turn off their lights.

We have "Earth Hour", but Balinese have "Earth Day". It is my sincere hope that the Indonesian government can preserve this beautiful and unique holiday, as there has been increasing urges from the non-Hindu and non-Balinese to make exceptions. If seen from religion point of view, it is understandable. Why should non-follower join the ritual of Hindu Bali? But let's see it in clear light. See what it has to offer for Earth, for your self, for people around you. Be honest with yourself and believe me, you will see it really worth the effort. Come join us next time will you, and indulge in the unique celebration of beautiful silence.


  1. what a excellent writing ^_^ Dana :D

  2. Thank you Dana, feel Free to share :)


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