Nyepi – What is it all about?
Nyepi is an auspicious day that marks the beginning of the Hindu Balinese New Year, according to the traditional saka calendar. The word Nyepi originates from the word “sepi” meaning quiet or empty. This is why on this day one must be quiet, preferably filling the day out with meditation and self-reflection.
There are several restrictions to be observed on Nyepi. Some of these are: amati karya (no working, including talking), amati geni (no fire or lights) and amati lelungan (no going out). One should also refrain from any form of entertainment, yes even TV! For those who choose to fast, it is a long wait as Nyepi starts at twelve midnight and goes through to sunrise the next morning. In reality, however, few Balinese recognise all of these.
People are expected to stay indoors, or at least on their property and this requirement is fairly strictly enforced by community security guards, otherwise known as pecalang. Even venturing out to the beach from a beachside hotel is forbidden.
To ensure total peace and quiet, of recent years the local government decided to stop all flights in and out of Bali over the Nyepi holiday. Security and health services however continue to operate, in case of emergencies.
A trend over the last few years has been “Nyepi hotel packages” which offers more freedom to both local and overseas tourists who may find it difficult to cope with Nyepi in the village context. Hotel employees of course are expected to work over Nyepi, however the no-entertainment rule is enforced in most establishments.
©2010 Vaughan Hatch