Nyepi in Indonesia
Every religion or culture in the world has its own way to define and celebrate its new year. For example, the Chinese have the Imlek year and they celebrate it as “Gong Xi Fat Choy,” which means, “Chinese New Year gift.” The Muslims have their Muharam year and they go to Masjid to pray. In Indonesia, Nyepi is a religious observance for Hindus and it is a very unique ceremony. Nyepi is derived from the word sepi, which means silent. I still remember how quiet it was in Bali on the day of Nyepi, since there are no activities on that particular day. Bali is the main island where people go to celebrate Nyepi, because 80% of the population is Hindu. However, other Hindus who do not live in Bali still commemorate Nyepi. Out of all the places in Indonesia, Bali is the only place where people do not participate in activities throughout the day. The Balinese Hindus do not celebrate the New Year with a lavish party; instead, they celebrate the coming of the New Year with meditation that starts before sunrise and lasts until sunset (Putu, 2002).
Two or three days before Nyepi, Hindus perform ritual cleansing to sanitize themselves and nature with Melasti or Melis, therefore it is called Melasti. They wear traditional attire, carry long-poled umbrellas and march to the sea. This occasion is dedicated to Sanghyang Widhi/Vishnu-Devas-Bataras, one of the gods (Putu, 2002). Melasti takes place at the beaches in Bali in order to respect the gods as the owners of land and sea. In this ritual, women carry fruits, flowers and sweet cakes to offer, while the men carry effigies, called Barong. Barong is a symbol for them to sense the gods’ presence. Upon their arrival at the ocean, the pendada (leader of the ritual) prays and rings his small bell. Afterwards, the men who carry the sacred statue rush into the ocean and start purifying the effigy. Hindus view the ocean as an element that has power of sanctification and purification. It is believed that water can cleanse anything atrocious from a human being.
Nyepi is a Balinese “Day of Silence,” which is celebrated each New Year of Saka. It is a day for self-reflection. This day falls on a count of Tilem Kesanga (IX), which is a day of purification. It is believed that the gods in the center of the ocean bring the essence of Amrita, living water (Abhilash, 2010). These gods are sacred in Hindus’ worship. New Year of Saka in Bali begins with a retreat. On the day of Nyepi, there are no activities allowed, except for the Pecalang (traditional Bali security man). All activities are eliminated, including public services. This is because they believe in Amati Geni (no light or fire), Amati Karya (no work), Amati Lelunganan (no traveling), and Amati Lelanguan (fasting and no revelry). On...