Nyepi is the Balinese Hindu New Year.
It is celebrated on the first new moon in March. It is generally celebrated on the same day as the Indian festival, Ugadi. Celebrations are centered on Bali and take two forms.
Firstly according to custom, the arrival of Spring is the time of year when the Lord of Hell sends all the devils to Bali, who must then be cleared out to purify the island before the new year begins.
People then run through the streets of villages and towns, with their faces painted, making as much noise as they possibly can. The evil spirits are driven away by the local people who make massive papier-mache effigies of the evil spirits called ‘Ogoh Ogoh’. The Ogoh Ogoh are then paraded through towns and villages while people with their faces painted make as much noise as they possibly can to scare the monsters away. In the evening the effigies are ceremoniously burnt, followed by dancing, drinking feasting and generally unabashed partying.
This noisy, brash festival is then followed by Nyepi, the Balinese “Day of Silence” also known as Seclusion Day. Nyepi, marks the start of the New Year and the arrival of spring. Beginning at 6 am and lasting until 6 am the following day, Nyepi is a day intended for self-reflection and anything that might disturb this is not allowed.
This means no cooking or fires, no entertainment, no travelling and no work of any kind is permitted.
This means that the usually busy streets of Bali fall silent and even though Nyepi is a Hindu festival, non-Hindu residents of Bali will also observe the day of silence out of respect for their fellow citizens. Tourists are free to do what they want inside their hotels but nobody is permitted onto the beaches or streets. The airport in Bali will also be closed for Nyepi.
The day after Nyepi, is known as Ngembak Geni, and as daily routines get back to normal, this is a day to perform religious rituals and ask forgiveness for past deeds to start the new year with a clean slate.
Hari Raya Nyepi has been a national holiday in Indonesia since 1983.