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    What is the difference between ‘ngayah’ and ‘ngo’opin’?

    If you live in Bali I’m sure you’ll already know that a Balinese life is full of ceremonies that seem to take place nearly every day of the year. Balinese will use many different terms to explain what ceremony that are involved in, and, since these words don’t have direct equivalents in English, I will explain what some of them mean.

    Let’s start with the difference between ‘ngayah’ and ‘ngo’opin’. Both of these words loosely mean ‘to help out with a religious or community activity’. Often focussed on a religious-based activity in a temple, Brahmin household (griya) or palace (puri), ngayah is a more commonly heard term. The word ‘ngayah’ has a different connotation depending which part of Bali you’re from. From my experience, in South Bali the word means to ‘devote oneself to a particular cause or ceremonial activity without any expectation of payment or reciprocity’. So, if you dance or play gamelan at a ceremony, for example, that is called ngayah if you are not paid to do so.

    Ngo’opin is a more general word for helping out at the banjar or friends and family when they have a particular ceremony; for example, in preparation for a wedding, tooth-filing or cremation.

    Acts of both ngayah or ngo’opin can last for many days, weeks or even months if the ceremony is large enough. These demands placed can bring to a halt other activities in a Balinese person’s life, including work. This is why employers have to be both aware yet realistic about how much time off they can grant to their Balinese employees. I’ve known of employees who have been forced to quit their jobs in lieu of a large ceremony!

    © Vaughan Hatch 2010

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