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A Quiet Start to the Year

Bali's 'Day of Quiet' Ushers in the Hindu New Year.

(3/22/2004) Bali's night of Mardi Gras-like abandon preceding the traditional day of silence - Nyepi passed in a somewhat more sedate manner than years past.

Absent from the nighttime revelry on Saturday, March 20, 2004, were the traditional long parades of giant ogoh-ogoh statues prepared by the youth of every banjar and hoisted through local streets on the shoulders of arak-fortified merry-makers. Eager to avoid the natural rivalry that ogoh-ogoh parades sometimes generate between local villages, local religious and political leaders resolved to ban the making and parading of the large statues for a single year to avoid the cultural parades assuming a political hue in this election year.

That's not to say that the marking of New Year's Eve for the Hindu Caka Year of 1926 was by any means boring. Loudspeakers were installed at most banjars and along major streets to support street parties that went on to the early hours. Other villages sought higher cultural ground, holding musical competitions and traditional dance contests.

In spite the lack of ogoh-ogoh's to mark the end of the old year, parades still formed a part of this year's celebrations in some villages. In Singaraja, North Bali, members of the Bali Agung community held mabuu-buu ceremonies; religious processions stopping at every home to share holy water with their neighbors for use in religious observances. Virtually the entire community, dressed in traditional costumes, and carrying torches and coconut fronds joined the long procession of the prayerful, accompanied on their door-to-door pilgrimage by a local belaganjur orchestra.