The Day of Silence – preparations for Nyepi


nyepi-1331882572

The drive to the office this morning took a little longer than normal as thousands of Balinese flooded on to the streets making final preparations for Nyepi.

Bali time is normally a pretty flexible concept , but as the deadline for completing the construction of the 30,000+ Ogoh-Ogoh statues around the Island draws near, some obvious signs of sleeplessness were evident :

nyepi unfinished

Headless statues were being attended to by groups of raucous teenagers, with an application to detail that would put the western Y Generation to shame.

nyepi giant

On the beach at Petitenget the other night we stumbled across one of the more obscure rituals which involves 2 very life like Giants performing a story from the ancient scriptures surrounded by hundreds of chanting devotees all dressed in white. We stood and watched for over an hour and could still not work out how these puppets had been made so realistic – almost convincing ourselves that they were in fact genuine giants.

hari_nyepi_sacrifice

Rituals abound, but cameras are not welcome at some of the more gruesome ones so I borrowed this stock footage picture to give my readers a feel for the vibe here.

nyepi 1

On my way home tonight every village was shut down to traffic as the whole population gathered to pray – only us motorcyclists could get through often driving through rice paddies to avoid the jam.

nyepi winner

This is last year’s prize winner in Denpasar.

Tonight we will be in Ubud, the cultural centre of Bali, to witness over 100 Ogoh Ogoh’s being paraded through the streets, many of which have been under construction for months, only to be ritually burned and dumped in a large pit.

Tomorrow is the Day of Silence – no one is allowed out in the streets, no traffic, all flights are stopped and total silence reigns the island, strictly enforced by the elegantly dressed Temple Police.

Happy Nyepi to all friends around the world – I will report back on Wednesday hopefully with some spectacular footage of tonight’s events !

Om Swast Swast Swasti Om

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7 Festivals before the end of May !


Well the festival season has certainly kicked off early for me this year.

Back in the UK at this time of the year, I would be sitting close to my log stove looking forward to Bearded Theory in May, the first major festival of the season.

When I arrived in Bali 2 weeks ago I was immediately involved in Sarawasti Day.

NTB - Bau Nyale 2

Next month (date yet to be confirmed by the Sasak priests) is Bau Nyale, Festival of the Seaworms in neighbouring Lombok. Each year thousands of seaworms come to the surface at selected beaches in East Lombok. The locals believe, that the Nyale are not just regular seaworms, but are considered as sacred creatures that bring prosperity to those who honor them, or misfortune to those who ignore them. This belief was based on a legend of princess Mandalika.

Having fun with us.

We are also planning a motorbike expedition over to the remote island of Sumba, two islands away in time for the Annual Pasola Horse Festival on March 8th. The island is famous for its Sumba ponies descended from ancient Mongolian stock.

Sumba and Sumbawa ponies are today used for pack, riding, and light draft work. They are incredibly strong, and many are ridden by men in games of lance throwing despite never reaching 13 hands high. Young boys also ride the ponies bareback in traditional dance competitions, maneuvering them in patterns as instructed. The knee of the ponies are decorated with bells, that chime in rhythm to the drumming. All of the local cowboys gather annually for day of jousting and racing.

Pasola, roughly translated, means spear game.  And the event does, indeed revolve around a game that involves spears, as well as throwing them at people while on horseback.

The origins of this festival are unknown for the most part, with many legendary tales to explain its beginnings.  Others believe it evolved from some sort of peaceful dispute resolution.  Either way, it has now become integral to the celebration of harvest time on the island.  Its popularity has grown such that it brings in huge crowds from not only the local islands, but from all over the world.

Two groups get together, generally divided by clan or region.  They ride horses, bareback, and carry several blunted wooden spears with them.  Two pairs of these horsemen take their place on each side of a large field then proceed to charge toward each other, the way one might in a western-styled jousting tournament.  When they get within range of their opponents, the spears fly.  After a time the field is filled with people, all hurling spears and trying to either unseat their enemies or to wound them or their horses.

As is to be expected, even blunt spears can cause damage.  Injury is a given when it comes to the Pasola War Festival.  Most just sustain bruises or get knocked from their horses, but there have been cases of people losing an eye or even dying in pursuit of this tradition.

The spilling of blood is not considered a bad thing, however.  The blood lost during this tournament is believed to fertilize the Earth and lead to a fruitful harvest in the future.

It sounds spectacular and an event I have been meaning to catch for years.

field of battle

Then of course we get into the big Balinese Festval season. Nyepi (Balinese New Year) falls on March 12th this year, Galungan on March 27th and then Kuningan on April 8th – but I’ll be posting on them later.

It looks like I’ll be popping back to the UK in May so will as usual get to meet friends old and new at Bearded Theory to swap winter stories, and bond with my tribe again. And with any luck the Levellers will be there this year so it won’t matter if I miss Beautiful Days !!

7 Festivals before the end of May. Win !!!

 

Saraswati Day – Bali


Saraswati

Couldn’t sleep so headed down to the beach at 1am to discover thousands of Balinese in traditional dress. Tonight is Banyu Pinaruh apparently, the festival of knowledge. The beach was littered with offerings and every few minutes large groups of boys and men were running down into the surf chanting and cleansing themselves – “inside and outside” as one very serious lad of 15 told me.

I sat on the beach for an hour chatting with everyone and as usual learning so much about this incredible culture. They shared with me some traditional medicines which are only prepared on this day, and some incredibly tatsty rambutans (large lychees)
Most of today they have spent in the temples cleaning and dusting off the lontar (bamboo strips inscribed with the sacred Sanskrit texts) and reading them with the help of the elders.
Tomorrow is Saraswasti day, to celebrate the goddess of knowledge, music, and the arts…. an auspicious day to choose my new ukelele I was told !
I feel so blessed being here.
How could you not ?
Not a single foreigner on the beach.
Om Swast Swasti Swasti Om xxxx
Read more here if you are interested :

http://www.indo.com/culture/saraswati.html