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Rabu, 04 Juni 2008

Nyepi Day : Bali's Day Of Silince

Every religion or culture all over the world has their own way to define and celebrate their new year. For example, the Chinese have the Imlek year and to celebrate it, have, as they called it in their own language, "Gong Xi Fat Choy". The Moslem societies have their Muharam year, and any of the people over the world using the Gregorian calendar, celebrate the New Year on January 1st.

The same thing also occurs in Bali, however the Balinese use many different calendar systems. They have adopted the Gregorian calendar for business and government purposes. But for the endless procession of holy days, temple anniversaries, celebrations, sacred dances, building houses, wedding ceremonies, death and cremation processes and other activities that define Balinese life, they have two calendar systems. The first is the Pawukon (from the word Wuku which means week) and Sasih (which is means month). Wuku consists of 30 items starting from Sinta, the first Wuku and end up with the Watugunung the last one. The Pawukon, a 210-day ritual calendar brought over from Java in the 14th century, is a complex cycle of numerological conjunctions that provides the basic schedule for ritual activities on Bali. Sasih, a parallel system of Indian origin, is a twelve month lunar calendar that starts with the vernal equinox and is equally important in determining when to pay respect to the Gods.

Westerners open the New Year in revelry, however, in contrast, the Balinese open their New Year in silence. This is called Nyepi Day, the Balinese day of Silence, which falls on the day following the dark moon of the spring equinox, and opens a new year of the Saka Hindu era which began in 78 A.D.

Nyepi is a day to make and keep the balance of nature. It is based on the story of when King Kaniska I of India was chosen in 78 A.D. The King was famous for his wisdom and tolerance for the Hinduism and Buddhism societies. In that age, Aji Saka did Dharma Yatra (the missionary tour to promote and spread Hinduism) to Indonesia and introduce the Saka year.

The lead upto Nyepi day is as follows:

  • Melasti or Mekiyis or Melis (three days before Nyepi)
    Melasti is meant to clean the pratima or arca or pralingga (statue), with symbols that help to concentrate the mind in order to become closer to God. The ceremony is aimed to clean all nature and its content, and also to take the Amerta (the source for eternal life) from the ocean or other water resources (ie lake, river, etc). Three days before Nyepi, all the effigies of the Gods from all the village temples are taken to the river in long and colourful ceremonies. There, they have are bathed by the Neptune of the Balinese Lord, the God Baruna, before being taken back home to their shrines.
  • Tawur Kesanga (the day before Nyepi)
    Exactly one day before Nyepi, all villages in Bali hold a large exorcism ceremony at the main village cross road, the meeting place of demons. They usually make Ogoh-ogoh (the fantastic monsters or evil spirits or the Butha Kala made of bamboo) for carnival purposes. The Ogoh-ogoh monsters symbolize the evil spirits surrounding our environment which have to be got rid of from our lives . The carnivals themselves are held all over Bali following sunset. Bleganjur, a Balinese gamelan music accompanies the procession. Some are giants taken from classical Balinese lore. All have fangs, bulging eyes and scary hair and are illuminated by torches.The procession is usually organised by the Seka Teruna, the youth organisation of Banjar. When Ogoh-ogoh is being played by the Seka Teruna, everyone enjoys the carnival. In order to make a harmonic relation between human being and God, human and human, and human and their environments, Tawur Kesanga is performed in every level of society, from the people's house. In the evening, the Hindus celebrating Ngerupuk, start making noises and light burning torches and set fire to the Ogoh-ogoh in order to get the Bhuta Kala, evil spirits, out of our lives.
  • Nyepi
    On Nyepi day itself, every street is quiet - there are nobody doing their normal daily activities. There is usually Pecalangs (traditional Balinese security man) who controls and checks for street security. Pecalang wear a black uniform and a Udeng or Destar (a Balinese traditional "hat" that is usually used in ceremony). The Pecalangs main task is not only to control the security of the street but also to stop any activities that disturb Nyepi. No traffic is allowed, not only cars but also people, who have to stay in their own houses. Light is kept to a minimum or not at all, the radio or TV is turned down and, of course, no one works. Even love making, this ultimate activity of all leisure times, is not supposed to take place, nor even attempted. The whole day is simply filled with the barking of a few dogs, the shrill of insect and is a simple long quiet day in the calendar of this otherwise hectic island. On Nyepi the world expected to be clean and everything starts anew, with Man showing his symbolic control over himself and the "force" of the World, hence the mandatory religious control.
  • Ngembak Geni (the day after Nyepi)
    Ngembak is the day when Catur Berata Penyepian is over and Hindus societies usually visit to forgive each other and doing the Dharma Canthi. Dharma Canthi are activities of reading Sloka, Kekidung, Kekawin, etc.(ancient scripts containing songs and lyrics).

From the religious and philosophy point of view, Nyepi is meant to be a day of self introspection to decide on values, eg humanity, love, patience, kindness, etc., that should kept forever. Balinese Hindus have many kind of celebrations (some sacred days) but Nyepi is, perhaps the most important of the island's religious days and the prohibitions are taken seriously, particularly in villages outside of Bali's southern tourist belt. Hotels are exempt from Nyepi's rigorous practices but streets outside will be closed to both pedestrians and vehicles (except for airport shuttles or emergency vehicles) and village wardens (Pecalang) will be posted to keep people off the beach. So wherever you happen to be staying on Nyepi Day in Bali, this will be a good day to spend indoors. Indeed Nyepi day has made Bali a unique island.

Selasa, 20 Mei 2008

Balinese Life

The strong cultural identity of Bali is based on a combination of closely related elements such as the unique religion, the language, the castes, the community life, the land cultivation and the expression of its art. Of the four castes, Brahmana, Satria and Wesia represent 10% of the population whereas the Sudras (the farmers and craftsmen) represent the great majority. The caste system, still very much alive today, regulates, apart from their religious power, the different levels of the Balinese language.
Although the official language is Bahasa Indonesia, Balinese remains the everyday dialect of the people of the island. Each Balinese belongs to his or her caste, but foremost to their community, which from birth to death regulates life in its social and religious aspects. Numerous ceremonies mark the progression of life, starting with the first birthday, 210 days after birth, which is the length of a Balinese year.
Childhood is treated with respect and gentleness until teen years, celebrated with the tooth filing ceremony. Marriage is the definite and official entry into the community of which every Balinese becomes an active member. Participation at the meetings of the "Banjar", (virtual local government which manages village life, from wedding ceremonies, cremations, village security and land transactions), is everyone's given duty.
The whole irrigation system, unique in the world, is managed by this
association whichensures the fair distribution of water, and carries out the ceremonial rites to the spirits of agriculture. This perfect organization makes the Balinese the best rice farmers of Indonesia. In this compact cultural unity, on ethnic group stands out: the Bali Aga. They are the descendants of the first inhabitants before the arrival of the Majapahit. Their customs, far from all Hindu influence, are believed to be of prehistorically origin. Arts, music, dance and their wove textiles are subject to specific rituals. The two best known Bali Aga villages are Tenganan, above Candi Dasa and Trunyan on Lake Batur.

Kamis, 08 Mei 2008

About Bali

History of Bali
It is believed that Bali's first inhabitants came from China at the beginning of the Iron Age, around 3000 BC. Some Buddhist inscriptions date from the 9th century AD, but it was only in the 11th century that the Hindu influence, omnipresent in Java, made its mark on the island. Under the reign of King Airlangga, cultural exchanges between the two islands were developed. In the 13th century, the son of king Kertanegara founded the Majapahit dynasty which flourished for three centuries.
At the end of this time, chased by the arrival of Islam, the Javanese aristocracy, its nobles, priests, artists and artisans fled to Bali. During this era, the island enjoyed an intense period of cultural development, the main traits of which are to be found today in the caste system, the rituals and certain artistic styles. The first Dutch seamen landed in Bali in 1597. The settlement and colonization process, which actually only started in 1800, was marked by troubled times and climaxed with the "Puputan" or collective suicide of the 14th of September 1906, when 4000 Balinese killed themselves rather than capitulate. The Japanese occupation, from 1942 to 1945, hindered the Dutch sovereignty.
0n the 17th of August 1945, Sukarno, the first President of the Republic of Indonesia, proclaimed independence. In Bali, at the battle of Marga in 1946 the Dutch, who did not recognize the declaration of independence, faced a group of 94 soldiers led by Lt. Col. I Gusti Ngurah Rai, who refused to surrender. The Bali international airport is named after him. In 1949, the Dutch finally withdrew.


Located 8 degrees south of the equator, in the midst of the 17 000 islands of the Indonesian Archipelago, Bali measures approximately 140 km by 80 km and has an area of 5 620 km2. Immediately east of Java, Bali is the first of the Sunda Islands. Its mountain range consists mostly of active volcanoes, with the highest, Mount Gunung Agung, reaching 3142 meters. Stretched to the south and north of these volcanoes, Bali's most fertile agricultural lands produce abundant crops of rice.
The west, thinly populated, is the only non-cultivated area and includes Bali's National Park, a deeply forested area, with rare varieties of plants and birds. The eastern and northeastern slopes of ( Gunung Agung are arid, as is the Bukit Peninsula to the south.The climate is hot and humid with an average temperature of 28 degrees Celcius. The rainy season lasts from October to March and the percentage of humidity fluctuates between 75% and 80% depending on the season.