Ogoh, Ogoh The Night Before Nyepi

and all through the house. Well, you know the rest, but not in this case.

Due to a different calendar system in Bali, New Year‘s Eve takes place every year around March. In 2018 it is the 16th of March, one day before Nyepi, which is the Day of Silence.  Nyepi is the day where everything in Bali is closed (restaurants, shops, even the airport). You are not allowed to go out on the street.  But, before that day, the Balinese Hindus celebrate Ngrupuk Parade – also known as the ‘Ogoh Ogoh’ Parade. This is a huge Hindu New Year’s festivity all over Bali. The locals are roaming through the streets, carrying great ‘Ogoh Ogohs’, playing drums, pushing gongs and holding torches.  The Local  collection of villages under the name of Pecatu held their festival in the soccar pitch in front of the S.D. 1 school.  Mitch, Kelsi and I rode our trusty scooters into the throngs of people to join them in watching the judging of the Ogoh, Ogoh’s.


Not an Ogoh, just me.  Trump’s stylist was in town, can you tell?


This is an Ogoh!

 The Ogoh’s are giant monster dolls made of light materials: Wood, bamboo, paper, and styrofoam. They are carried on bamboo platforms through the Ogoh Ogoh Parade. They take the shape of mythological, evil creatures and gods to represent negative aspects of living things and criticise society and its latest issues. The name itself comes from ‘ogah ogah’, the Balinese word for ‘shaken’. The scary artworks are indeed shaken when carried through the streets and almost seem to move, dance and come to life. One was shaken so hard his head came off to great glee from the crowd. Ogoh Ogoh monsters often have multiple heads and arms and carry swords or pitchforks. Some of them also include modern elements like motorcycles or surfboards criticising today’s trend of superficial self-staging.

 These are just a sampling of the 20 or so Ogohs at the festival.  Each village pulls together to design, assemble and provide the teams to carry their Ogoh.  There were first, second and third places given, but it was hard to determine the criteria.  I did wonder about the time and expense required to build an Ogoh.  The Bukit, and Pecatu in particular, rely upon tourism for their livelihood.  The rainy season and the recent volcanic activity in January have stunted the usual busy tourist season and I did notice it and discussed it with the various restaurants and retail stores.  Most agreed that business was off.  A barbecue place I was looking forward to trying (if not just for the name) , Pig’s Panic, had closed indefinately.  In spite of this dip in income, the show must go on, and, lucky for us, it did.

One of my faves. The balancing act.


The participants are proud to be a part of the festivities.


Ogoh Ogoh Parade ends with countless bonfires, which I saw and what made my ride to the airport  almost 3 hours long.  The laboriously designed monsters are burnt ceremonially and fall to ashes. The key question that might be burning on your mind like Ogoh Ogohs in the dusk, is probably asking ‘why’! Unfortunately there is no clear evidence. Many argue that Ogoh Ogohs have been used since the age of the ancient Balinese kingdom Dalem Bangkiang, who had been using them as integral part in a cremation ceremony. Others believe that the dolls were first inspired by a ritual from the village of Selat, where they had been a medium to repel the evil spirits. The Balinese believe that bad spirits are made to move into their Ogoh monsters by making noise and playing instruments and can be banished by burning. It is an important act of purification for the locals to herald the new year and Nyepi, the following day.


Nyepi or Silent Day is a very unique holiday that you will only find on Bali and its neighbouring islands Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Penida. Its purpose is to celebrate the Balinese New Year. Since Balinese people follow a different calendar system (their year has 210 days and is 78 years behind the Georgian calendar), it does not always happen on the same date as we know it. However, it usually  takes place in March and this year (2018) it is on the 17th.

On Nyepi Day, complete calm enshrouds the island. The Balinese Hindus follow a ritual called the Catur Brata Penyepian, roughly the ‘Four Nyepi Prohibitions’. These include amati geni or ‘no fire’, amati lelungan or ‘no travel’, amati karya ‘no activity’, and amati lelanguan ‘no entertainment’. Some consider it a time for total relaxation and contemplation, for others, a chance for Mother Nature to ‘reboot’ herself after 364 days of human pestering. No lights are turned on at night – total darkness and seclusion goes along with this new moon island-wide, from 06:00 to 06:00. No motor vehicles whatsoever are allowed on the streets, except ambulances and police patrols and emergencies. Hotel guests are confined to their hotel premises, but free to continue to enjoy the hotel facilities as usual. Traditional community watch patrols or pecalang enforce the rules of Nyepi, patrolling the streets by day and night in shifts.

Mitch and Kelsi prepared for Nyepi by buying groceries to make all of their meals on the 17th and planning what to watch via the WiFi connection.  I had bought two boxes of wine in preparation even though I was flying out late that night..  Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be much quality control with Balinese wine.  Identical boxes – the first one was OK but the second one tasted like medicine; an experience I had with a previous bottle of wine by the same vintner – Hatten.  Another vintage added to the Wine Aversion Therapy Program.




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.