Nyepi or Happy New Year|Shut Up!

This year, Nyepi falls on March 7th according to our Balinese calendar (March 8th according to Microsoft Outlook… I guess that calendar sharing thing still has a few glitches).

Just in case you’re not familiar with the holiday, here’s what you need to know.





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Background on the Nyepi Holiday

The whole Nyepi thing can be a little confusing (I’m still confused about it after all this time) and while there’s plenty of information online, it can, at times seem a little contradictory — here is a little of what you might find:

It’s a Lunar Holiday or it’s the Saka/Caka/Sashi New Year:

There are 3 calendars commonly used in Bali: Gregorian (European calendary, 365 or 366 days, 12 months, 52 weeks and a few glaring errors); Pawukon (a Bali-only calendar, 210 days, 10 weeks running concurrently) and the Saka, Caka or Sashi calendar which is a 420 day long lunar calendar (first day of every month follows a full moon).

In Bali, Nyepi falls on the first day of the Caka New Year and, this year, that means March 7th will be Saka New Year’s day, 1930.

Nyepi is a Solar Holiday (or the Spring Equinox):

This is probably the most confusing thing for me… I mean:

  1. If Nyepi is a lunar holiday, how can it be a solar holiday?
  2. How can Nyepi be a celebration of the Spring Equinox if we only have two seasons here; wet & dry?
  3. Isn’t the whole concept of Spring Equinox  a pagan thing?

I don’t have answers for these questions… but no-one I know thinks of Nyepi as a Spring anything.

Nyepi is  the Hindu/Dharma New Year:

The Saka calendar is a (Bali) Hindu calendar and thus yes, Nyepi is a Hindu New Year Celebration.

Fun for all the family:

Nyepi is fascinating to me and one or two other people because it’s a day of silence.

Let me clarify that:

As far as I know (going by what I’ve been told and what I’ve experienced), Nyepi will begin at dawn (6:00 AM) March 7th and go until dawn March 8th, the following day.

During that time, we’re not supposed to the following things:

  • Amati Geni: No fire/light (= no electrical appliances or engines or lighting cigarettes)
  • Amati Karya: No working (= no cooking or anything)
  • Amati Lelunganan: No travelling (=not allowed out)
  • Amati Lelanguan: No eating (Fasting)

I’ve read that in Bali, only Balinese must observe Nyepi but visitors (ex-pats, non-Balinese Indonesians, non-Hindu Balinese and tourists) also observe Nyepi out of respect.

This is not entirely true — or has never been true for me: the day is in fact enforced (if I can use that word) by the local communities; if you’re here, you have no choice but to observe. Your options are to stay at whichever hotels have purchased limited exceptions for themselves or to go to Lombok or any other island.

To help keep people on the straight and narrow, members of the community participate in policing the local villages as Pecalang — basically, guys walking around with flashlights shouting at you if they see you watching tv or whatever. If you go away for the weekend and forget to switch off any automatic lighting, you’ll find the bulbs carefully removed or, more amusing, smashed by the time you return.

A Wonderful Tradition & a Jolly Good Idea:

I’ve read on a few sites that Nyepi is an old, established tradition of Balinese Hindus — as far as I know, that’s not so: the observance of silence and the 4 Amatis outlined above were put in place relatively recently by people high up in the Bali government or administration.

I wish I knew who and when but, so sorry, I don’t.

I’m guessing, however, it only goes back to the 1980s or 70s — if anyone knows for sure, don’t be afraid to enlighten me.

Anyhoo, there’s a lot of talk around the web of what a great, awesome, spiritual, lovely, heartwarming, unique, brilliant, eco-friendly type of day it is.

Can’t say I agree wholeheartedly.

Here’s my take on it:

Personally, I enjoy Nyepi. It’s great to have an excuse to not answer the phone. Or go shopping. Or do anything much. For example, I won’t be cutting the grass on Nyepi. Excellent. Or driving down to the shop. Or walking to the shop. Brilliant.

I will sit out in the garden and listen to the cows, dogs, geese and so on.

I will light fires (I smoke).

I will make coffee (otherwise, no waking up).

The Air Conditioning will be running.

The TV will be on

There will be a few lights on this evening (hopefully where no-one from the neighbourhood will catch on)..

What I don’t like about Nyepi is that there’s no choice.

Everything shuts. There are small groups of local security patrolling the area and knocking on doors and shouting at people if they have a light on or whatever.

If Bali had set aside a day where you could, if you wanted, sit inside (or outside) and contemplate your navel; a time when shops had to close (no commerce) but not major infrastructure establishments like Hospitals, Fire Stations, Police and so on…  I think I’d be all for it.

As it is, I shall join most Balinese by celebrating the day quietly — a nod to the authorities in terms of covered windows, low lights, volume down on the tv but inside I”ll be enjoying re-runs of the Premier League; having a nice hot meal and doing some webwork.

Ah, tricks learnt during a dictatorship that continue to pay dividends long after Ozymandius is gone and his mighty works turned to dust.


Some Links for you:

Bali Nyepi Info

Nyepi – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Indian Hindu Info:


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One Comment

  1. Silence day, a holy to celebrate the Balinese New Year will be held on Friday, 3/7/08, on this day silent will reign supreme all over the island. In most areas in Bali, silence day is observed once a year, but as any other things in Bali, there are always some exceptions including for the observation of silence day. The old villages in Karangasem regency such as Ababi, Tenganan and Ulakan have their own silence day, but for this occasion I will focus only on the observance of silence day in Ababi village.

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