In Passenger Conners news, I helped trick some demons into thinking Bali was deserted the other day. It was pretty easy, actually, and part of the Balinese New Years celebration (it’s technically 1933 in these parts). Still, the highlight of the experience was totally the giant demon parade the night before.
Stick with me a minute while I go on a semi-tangent: I consider it auspicious that this year I’ve so far celebrated 3 New Years Days. First, I spent regular New Years, January 1st in Saigon. Then, I found myself in Thailand for the Chinese New Year (February 3). And now, I was in Ubud on March 3, the Balinese New Year, known here as Nyepi. And it’s here that we meet the demons.
The Balinese New Year is tied to a religious celebration, and the hope is that if on New Year’s Day everyone on the island stays home, doesn’t use electricity and keeps quiet, any demons passing over Bali will be tricked into thinking it deserted and not bother to stop here or give anyone any trouble in the coming year. And this is no pseudo-day off, a la Thanksgiving in the USA, where some restaurants and other services remain open. Around here, TV and radio stations go dark, flights are all cancelled, no cars or motorbikes are on the streets, and absolutely nothing is open (I haven’t figured out what happens at hospitals or with the police).
Whereas the day of silence is, well, silent – the previous day (Nyepi Eve?) is all about the par-tay. On the day before Nyepi there’s a number of temple ceremonies and offerings made, but the real hoopla happens at the spectacle to end all spectacles: The Ogoh-Ogoh Parade.
The Ogoh-Ogoh’s are gigantic papier mache effigies of horrific demons. The artisans responsible for constructing the massive statues create honest to goodness masterpieces. The demons are paraded throughout the town on the evening before Nyepi and are accompanied by the thunderous music of traditional gamelan bands – all to the delight of locals and tourists, clapping and dancing in the wake of the monster mash at hand. I’ll let these monsters speak for their own hideously exquisite selves:
For more pictures of the awesomeness that is Nyepi, check out my Flickr album.