Some Post-Nyepi Reflections

March 25, 2012

Another Nyepi has come and gone.  It was a time of quiet darkness, the freedom from the incessant chaos of traffic and people on the streets providing a balm for jaded souls. A Day of Silence, introspection and respect. Except, of course, for those who seem to be exempt from respecting the strictures that this day imposes on the rest of us.

Like the local lads in Buleleng who rampaged through the streets of the silent Nyepi night on motorbikes, attacking rival communities, hurling insults and missiles, and co-opting reinforcements to swell the numbers of those engaged in this desecration.

Like the police and paramilitaries who responded to this affray not with mediation, counselling and diplomacy, but with gunfire. Gunfire on Nyepi Day, no less!

Like some Balinese children and teenagers, caught up in self-righteous vigilante hubris – and believing that they have the same rights as adult Pecalang – rampaging noisily down streets, hammering loudly on doors and demanding that lights be doused.

Like the Pecalang who believed that young children under their supervision, should be permitted to play in the otherwise empty streets while their charges socialised, chatted and played cards.

Like some insensitive bules who perhaps thought that they had been quiet for long enough by 11 pm on Friday night, and were therefore justified in letting the sound of their loud, drunken arguments escape their villas and pollute the still night.

Like the few errant mosques, whose clerics arrogantly permitted amplified sounds to sully the silence despite all prior polite requests for quiet – and despite Bali’s already generous concessions which allowed Muslims to walk to mosques in the name of religious tolerance.

Like surfers and visitors to Medewi, who freely used the streets and beaches all day.

Like some restaurants in the same area, which were open for business on the Day of Silence.

And like a few non-Balinese households, who believed that their brightly-lit, noisy houses were as exempt from silence, darkness and respect for local customs as those of their compatriots in other parts of the archipelago.

Visitors, tourists, expats and most Indonesian non-Hindus have, in the main, always shown respect for Nyepi, observing its restrictions with good grace. But now, with breaches and exemptions on the increase, some people are starting to question whether the Balinese take it all that seriously themselves. And if they don’t, why are the rest of us bothering?

I think that the spiritual currency of this special day is being slowly devalued – and that makes me sad.

RELATED POST: One Day, Will We Commemorate Nyepi Day With A Minute’s Silence?



  1. Well it is sad. When I’ve been in Ubud for Nyepi Day I believe it has been enforced quite well.
    It’s important to keep the local customs for as long as possible. This is the children’s inheritence.
    I am having trouble typing…. broke my left shoulder last week… playing with the grandkids.
    Probably won’t be in Bali before June now. Will be in touch.

    • Ouch! Happy healing!

  2. Let’s hope they learned from this year and will be strict in applying the rules of silence for everyone next year.
    No exceptions, noy for religion reasons, not for tourists, bot for Balinese not taking part, … all present in Bali need to respect Nyepi and who doesn’t like it, go to Java, Lombok, … and enjoy your “freedom”, I call it disrespect, there.

  3. It would be a great thing if all, particularly visitors could manage to show respect on this spiritual day on a spiritual island. I believe it is this very spirituality that attracts many of us to Bali. I suppose it must be difficult to take part in introspection when one doesn’t like what is found, or does introspection cause interference with Facebook and the gooseberry?

  4. Religion, as displayed by most cultures, is a single word for ‘I am right and you are wrong’ and we would be better off without it but Nyepi is something we could all take a lesson from.

  5. This past Nyepi was my 15th consecutive Nyepi on Bali, (Kedewatan, Ubud) and as with all past years, I only experienced full compliance.

    One thing is for certain…we foreign expats needn’t worry about the Balinese falling lax on their highly important holy days such as Nyepi, Galungan and Kuningan.

  6. What a human blessing it would be to have just one day out of 365 where there was total quiet in every nation? So Nyepi is a religious day but it’s also a blessed escape from the hustle and bustle of normal human life. A time for contemplation and a time to take stock of one’s life. Forgetting the religious connotation – it’s just such a lovely idea……………..it is sad to think that there are those who would desecrate this unique day.

  7. A 24 hour world wide Nyepi would be a great idea, wouldn’t it, and if only for those 24 hours for the earth to breathe a bit!

    Fat chance…too much money at stake.

  8. Like the loud and boisterous tourists who were frolicking in the pool at the hotel I was staying at in Penestanan. One of them even loudly reminded his young child to, “BE QUIET BECAUSE TODAY IS
    SILENT DAY!” Yet the loud laughter and frivolity from the adults continued to echo around the grounds.
    I agree with previous comments that this sort of behaviour is disrespectful.

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