Bali takes a break from the world

Bali takes a break from the world

The resort island of Bali went quiet on Saturday as millions of residents observed Nyepi, the Balinese Hindu day of silence.

For 24 hours, starting from 6 a.m. on Saturday and ending at 6 a.m. on Sunday, the usual hustle and bustle of the tourism island subsided to a hush as most islanders stayed at home in tranquillity.

No motorcycles or cars roamed the streets during Nyepi, with the exception of emergency ambulances. Only pecalang (traditional village guards) could be seen patrolling on foot, securing their respective villages.

All of the island's gates of entry, including Ngurah Rai International Airport and the three major ferry terminals, ceased operations in honour of Nyepi. All broadcast media - both radio and television - went off the air too.

Nyepi is a day that marks the beginning of the Hindu New Year according to the Saka lunar calendar.

The chairman of Bali's Interfaith Communication Forum (FKUB), Ida I Dewa Gede Ngurah Swasta, said Hindus celebrated the new year by observing four abstentions: amati geni (abstaining from lighting fires); amati karya (abstaining from work); amati lelungan (abstaining from traveling outside family compounds); and amati lelaguan (abstaining from entertainment). "Nyepi is a time of introspection for us, to be better people in the next year," Swasta said on Friday.

Swasta said that all Hindus on the island were grateful for the tolerance shown by many non-Hindu residents in creating a peaceful Nyepi. "We are grateful that all of us can continue to uphold the long history of tolerance in Bali," he said.

While Hindus on the island observed Nyepi, non-Hindu residents and tourists followed the rules set by local authorities and traditional village guards.

Some of them stayed at home, others preferred to stay at hotels across the island to avail of their services. At night, only hotels and emergency medical facilities were permitted to turn on their lights. Many hotels also offered special packages for Nyepi.

Out of respect for Nyepi, hotels applied some limitations on guests' activities. Guests were not allowed to arrive or depart from the hotel. They still received hotel services, like food and beverages, but were required to remain within the hotel complexes. Entertainment and lights outside the hotels were prohibited.

Other residents preferred to leave the island during the holiday, prompting long queues of vehicles at Gilimanuk seaport in the western part of Bali and Padangbai seaport in the east, with travelers going to Java and Lombok islands.

However, many non-Hindu residents chose to stay and immersed themselves in the unique atmosphere. Rina Anindyta, a Muslim from Jakarta, enjoyed her sixth Nyepi in Bali at her boarding house in Denpasar. "Only once a year, and only in Bali, can we enjoy this atmosphere. I feel serene and peaceful, free from air pollution and noise pollution," said the private bank employee.

Nyepi was also celebrated across the archipelago. On Friday, thousands of Hindus participated in the Tawur Kesanga ritual, a ritual held as preparation for Nyepi, at the Prambanan Temple complex in Yogyakarta.

The ritual was also attended by President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, who became the first president to take part in the annual ceremony.

Also attending were First Lady Iriana, Indonesian Military (TNI) commander Gen. Moeldoko, Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo and Yogyakarta Governor Sri Sultan Hamengkubuwono.

In his opening speech, Jokowi wished the Hindus well for the holiday and called for respect of pluralism, tolerance and unity.

"Nyepi is an important holiday for retrospection; it provides a way to cleanse the soul from impurity, narrow-mindedness and evil thoughts," the President said.

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