Nyepi: The Balinese Day of Silence

Experience the ultimate day of stillness and serenity with Nyepi, the Balinese Day of Silence. Imagine a world without the hustle and bustle of daily life, where the only sounds you hear are the gentle rustling of leaves and the soothing chirping of birds. Are you ready to escape the chaos and embark on a journey of inner peace?

Nyepi day is unique to Bali. On this day everything is closed and people are restricted indoors for quiet self-reflection. Streets are abandoned, beaches are empty. Even if you did go out, what would it be for? Not a single store is open, no restaurant, minimal staff stay at police stations and hospitals. The airport is in total lock down. There is nothing to see and nothing to do but embrace the silence and stillness. 

Step one: Ogoh-Ogoh festival

On Nyepi Eve all the demons and evil spirits of the year are coaxed out of hiding with a parade of Ogoh-Ogoh (said oggah- oogah)

Ogoh-Ogoh are constructed from wire, paper polystyrene and bamboo to resemble all the naughtiness in the world, temptation, lies and greed in the form of spirits.  

The structures are created by village youth groups, where boys from each province (Banjar) aged 10-18 are required to organise themselves, generate their funding to purchase materials, design, construct and parade their own Ogoh-Ogoh.

As artworks alone the Ogoh-Ogoh are stunning. As a way for young boys to express their youth and just be boys, it’s enlightening. As a community project they are simply breathtaking.

Ogoh-Ogoh Parade in Bali | Silent Day Bali

Nyepi Eve

Roads around major intersections and alone Ogoh-Ogoh routes are completely blocked off making walking the best mode of transportation for the night.

Each group has their own procession, lead by young girls with tiki torches and elaborate dance and storytelling as part of the overall judgment.

After each Ogoh-Ogoh comes the gamelan, a walking percussion band of cymbals, gongs, drums and chanting by the group of boys.  At the community’s major intersections the Ogoh-Ogoh dance, the boys chant and the girls dance perform. Some shows take place after this, some at the time and judges decide who is the best Ogoh-Ogoh for each district with prizes awarded.

As the Ogoh-Ogoh are paraded through the streets the naughty spirits think they are real. They come out to play, to dance, to celebrate being naughty. They come from wells and trees and their hiding holes to parade with their papier-mâché brothers. Part of the preparation on Nyepi eve is for trees and plants to be cut back so that spirits have no hiding places left.

Step two: The day of silence and self-reflection

From 6am Nyepi Day to 6am the following day is a day of self-reflection. Everything shuts down, even the airport.

On Nyepi Day you are asked to speak only in whispers, stay inside your compound. There is to be no work, no pleasure (including entertainment), no travel, no cooking, no TV, and no power is to be used. The bustle of Bali is completely silenced and everyone goes into hiding. 

Now, when the evil spirits recover from their night of playing and dancing they will sail over the rooftops of Bali and think it is deserted. There is nothing to do and no fun to be had so they leave Bali and go to another island to live and cause chaos.

This allows the people of Bali get to start their year fresh and clean, not just from removing evil from the grounds, but also from their thoughts. Their mind is pure without distraction.

The day after Nyepi is a day of forgiveness. Now allowed to travel people go to pure water temples to give forgiveness to themselves and others after their day of isolation and self-reflection, it’s time to forgive and move on.

Ogoh Ogoh Parade in Bali | Silent Day Bali

What to do on Nyepi Eve

  • Gather little batches of delicious treats to see you through your day of isolation. 
  • Download anything you might want to watch or listen to (internet use is restricted on Nyepi day).
  • Get out and see the Ogoh-Ogoh performances. Major intersections and football fields are the best places to look for action.

What to do on Nyepi Day

  • Keep the curtains closed
  • Sleep in
  • Be quiet. If you watch or listen to entertainment or work online please use headphones to reduce noise
  • Stay inside your compound walls
  • Turn off all lights and don’t use your phone outside after dark as the light is very noticable (your compound owner will be fined if lights are visible by wardens).
  • See the stars. 

Star gazing is rewarding in Bali on Nyepi night.

No pleasure, um, no thankyou

When it comes to tourists the Balinese are very forgiving so for non-Hindu visitors, especially in resorts and hotels, you can have power, you can relax by the pool (even though it’s in the open) just don’t leave the facility, please. If you do venture out a police officer will escort you immediately home with fines imposed on the villa or compound owner. I would ask that you please, please respect the day of Nyepi. Stay hidden, stay quiet, let the evil pass.

Bali is the only place on earth you can experience Nyepi.  True stillness and silence surrounded by people.

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Jarrod Partridge

Jarrod has spent six years living in Bali, visiting every corner of the stunning island while immersing himself in the local culture. He fell in love there - with the football team Bali United - and spent many an evening with the locals, cheering the team on to two Liga 1 championships.

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