Balinese New Year

Authored By Jennifer

While I was at Club Med, the Balinese were celebrating the New Year according to their lunar calendar. Unlike the rest of Indonesia, over 90% of which are Muslim, the island of Bali is Hindu and Nyepi, the culimination of the week long festivities, is a Hindu holiday. A few days before Nyepi, the Melasti Ritual was performed. It is dedicated to Sanghyang Widhi/Vishnu-Devas-Bataras and is performed at the beach to respect the Gods as the owner of the land and sea. It’s a purification ritual. Lucky for me, on the Club Med property is a Balinese temple dedicated to Vishnu and all of the local people came to our beach to celebrate this festival. It was absolutely amazing to watch. There were hundreds of locals dressed in traditional costume who were marching around an altar with offerings to the Gods. While they were marching, music was performed by a group of women. It was mostly percussion instruments and sounded a lot like Javanese Gamelan. It was beautiful to hear. Part of the festival also included chanting and praying. I didn’t want to be disrespectful while they were praying, but imagine hundreds of Balinese kneeling on the ground, heads bowed and theirs hands together, with a flower between them, pointed to the sky. It’s so humbling.

The next day was the Bhuta Yajna Ritual, which is performed in order to vanquish the negative elements and create balance with God, Mankind, and Nature. This is done by making a lot of noise during the day and having a parade at night with Ogoh-ogoh’s. These Ogoh-ogoh’s are big monsters that the local people make and parade around the town. I left the Club Med property to watch the parade and I had such a wonderful time. Each club had a different monster that they made out of all kinds of things. Some were just amazing, and others were just scary. The best part was getting out among the local people. Right away I noticed that the Balinese were extremely friendly. I was always greeted with a smile and a hello. I figured the people at Club Med were paid to be nice, but I definitely appreciated. But when I went to see the parade, I was greeted with more smiles and hellos. One little boy sitting next to me even offered me his candybar. This was a stark comparison to most of the kids I’d met in SE Asia who were begging for money.

On the actual day of Balinese New Year, Nyepi, several rules are enforced for the entire island of Bali. No travel is allowed (we were required to stay at the village for the entire day and weren’t allowed to go to the beach), no fire or light (which meant you weren’t supposed to cook anything), no working, and you had to be silent. Obviously not all of these rules applied to Club Med, but they made a significant effort to keep the noise and the lights down. Even though the village wasn’t in full swing, it was great to take part in the local rituals.

Here is a link to the rest of my pictures from Bali:

One Response to “Balinese New Year”

  1. Dan Nazzareta Says: