Self-distancing and self-quarantine currently have been considered as one of the most efficient methods to break the new coronavirus (COVID-19) transmission chain. The fundamental idea of the method is to keep in contact with others as minimum as possible. Most people around the world have been practicing it and encouraging others to do the same.
Do you know that in Indonesia, we have been practicing a similar thing for years? However, this routine has more to do with a belief and is intended to be a time for someone to purify themselves. The practice of self-distancing has occurred a long time ago, primarily done by Hindus. This practice is addressed as Nyepi.
Nyepi or Balinese Day of Silence is a Hindu celebration that is mainly celebrated in Bali. Devout Hindus celebrate it every Saka new year according to the Balinese calendar. This year, Nyepi falls on March 25th, 2020. People use this moment to introspect themselves. In this manner, they can be a better person. Before the Day of Silence starts, there are other rituals to be held. The extensive series of the rituals are Melasti, Ngerupuk, Nyepi, and Ngembak Geni.
The first ceremony is the Melasti. The purpose of this ceremony is for purification. Purification conducted by Balinese Hindus is to get rid themselves of various unacceptable actions and behaviors that have been done. At the same time, cleaning is also carried out on various prayer facilities from the temple. Melasti is celebrated two days prior to Nyepi. This event is ordinarily done at the beach. However, it is also possible that this ceremony is held at other water sources, like lakes. People will wear white clothes and come in droves to where the Melasti ceremony will be conducted. They will bring various offerings and heirlooms to be cleaned up. Before the heirlooms are brought to the place of the ritual, they will be carried around the village.
The following ritual is Ngerupuk. This ceremony is meant to drive out Butha Kala, an iconic symbol for bad or evil. The ceremony is performed a day before the Day of Silence. Ngerupuk is carried out by spreading rice and putting torches around the house. People will also be striking any objects to make noises. This stage is performed to extrude the wicked spirit from the house and the surrounding environment. In Bali, Ngerupuk is traditionally celebrated by the Ogoh-ogoh parade which represents a visible embodiment of Butha Kala. Ogoh-ogoh is a giant figure. It’s carried around the village and then later burned. The intended purpose is the same, to drive out the bad spirit.
The next day, Nyepi or the Day of Silence begins. It typically begins at 6 a.m. until 6 a.m. the next day. There are four main restrictions, and they are; no fires, no working, no entertainment, and no traveling. Some Hindus even don’t talk and don’t eat during this sacred ritual. The effect of this prohibition is that Bali will be way quieter than it ordinarily is. The bustling streets will be empty and only a few visible signs of activities even inside houses. Although Nyepi is a Hindu ceremony, non-Hindu, including tourists, are not exempt from the cultural restrictions. The non-Hindu residents are undoubtedly allowed to do what they want to do inside their houses. However, no one is allowed to go to the beaches or streets. The airport in Bali is also closed for the entire day. The exception can be made for emergency situations only.
After the main ritual is over, then comes the Ngembak Geni ceremony. Ngembak Geni means relighting the fire. The social activity starts again quickly. All people as family and friends gather to ask forgiveness from one another. They also perform certain religious activities together. People are allowed to relight the fire again and do their normal routines as they welcome the new days to come.
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