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Day of Silence

sdane's picture

I cheated a little and posted two pictures.  The first represents the anticipation of silence, taken on the eve of Nyepi, the Balinese “Day of Silence,” and the second is of silence itself taken during the day of Nyepi.  As the name suggests, Nyepi is an annual holiday when the entire island of Bali goes silent for a day.  The night before, there are huge street ceremonies where giant effigies are paraded and later burned on the beach, followed by boisterous partying.  Local moonshine sellers have their best sales of the year.  The next day is complete silence – people stay in their family compounds and there is no electricity, no cars, no cooking, and only speaking in low, hushed voices in order to trick evil spirits into thinking that no people live on the island.  The second picture I posted is of my street during Nyepi when I snuck out to get a view of the normally bustling thoroughfare. In many ways, the silence is beautiful and the day presents a wonderful opportunity to self reflect and get a great view of the stars.  But while Nyepi is a silent day, it is also a day of silencing.  Ethnic minorities living in Bali, who face significant oppression year round, are even more closely monitored by “traditional police” during Nyepi and are terrified that even the slightest transgression of breaking the silence will lead to a later arrest. Special offerings need to be prepared for Nyepi and women work fulltime weaving offering baskets in the weeks leading up to the holiday, with little ability to opt out.  It is incredible to witness Nyepi, but many of Bali’s social problems scream out during an otherwise silent day.