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Before the Parade Passes By

Peaceful Ogoh-Ogoh Parades in Bali Defy Official Requests to Suspend Spirited Street Parades on the Eve of 'Nyepi.'

(3/30/2009) Despite official requests to suspend traditional ogoh-ogoh parades as part of this year's Nyepi celebrations, the lively hoisting of papier-mâché floats through the local streets of Bali was still much in evidence in various parts of the island. Local officials and Hindu leaders, concerned that the lively rivalry between local villages had the potential of spilling over into inter-party violence in the lead-up period to the April 9th elections, asked Balinese banjars to suspend the much-loved ogoh-ogoh displays this year.

A case in point was the village of Kuta, a location known for as a busy shopping and night-life mecca. No less that 13 banjars or local community organizations launched ogoh ogoh on Wednesday night, March 25, 2009, much to the amusement of local residents and island visitors alike.

In Kuta the traditional parade started at 7:00 p.m. staring on Jalan Legian, in front of Banjar Pengabetan Kuta, ending in front of the Kuta Art Market. One-by-one, the colorful floats passed by a critical eye of a seated jury tasked to pick the best effort. Local community pecalang, charged with keeping the peace, did their job with the parades passing without significant incident. Assisting the volunteer "Pacalang" peace officers were uniformed policemen from the Kuta police precinct.

All this happened against a cacophony of gongs and tin cans struck by local residents seeking to exorcise evil spirits on the eve of the New Year. Torches and small fires filled local compounds, foreshadowing the fires that would consume the ogoh ogoh floats at the end of the evening's festivities, putting final flight to Bhuta Kala, the Balinese take on Metistopholes.

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