Today, Bali is unlike almost any other place on earth: there are no people on the roads, no cars, no motorbikes, no radios blaring. Even the airspace over Bali has been shut down. Today Bali, the Islands of the Gods, is silent.
You see, today is Nyepi, Bali’s sacred silent day, the first day of the new year, according to the Balinese calendar. Every spring equinox, every community holds a general cleansing, a clearing-out of bad spirits and demons. Last night enormous ogoh-ogoh – manmade creations of devils and demons – were paraded and danced in the streets while drums were beaten and bamboo cannons were fired. The evil spirits were lured to the island and then, by the curses of priests, the bad spirits were expelled from the villages, chased away by all of the noise and chanting and drumming. The ogoh-ogoh were destroyed by fire or force, symbolically ridding the villages of the demons. And today, the first day of spring, the island is silent.
No lights may be on; no meals may be cooked; no noise may be made. It’s a day of utter silence; of peace. Tomorrow life will continue as usual but today this island is wonderfully calm, quiet. And it’s more beautiful than ever.