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A Part of Bali that Was Not Silent on Nyepi Day

Bali Aga Village of Tenganan Has its Own Set of Rules for the Observance of Hindu Holy Days.

(3/24/2010) Radar Bali reports that while the absolute day of silence - Nyepi, that descended across Bali on Tuesday, March 16, 2010, was not uniformly observed in every part of the island.

The Bali Aga village of Tenganan in Karangasem is well known for its ancient traditions, some clouded in mystery, including rules that mandate marriage only among those within the village and others that stipulate visitors must leave when the village gates are sealed each evening. Tenganan is also physically different from other villages in Bali. Homes are laid out on wide stone-paved boulevards that all lead to the center of the village.

Abiding by rules and traditions that predate the advent of Hinduism in Bali, Tenganan also operates by its own rules as regards the observance of Nyepi, the day when most Balinese refrain from any physical activity and even lighting flames for a 24-hour period.

Using a religious calendar of their own design, the people of Tenganan celebrate their day of silence in January, two months before the rest of the island.

In fact, when Bali's more recognized Nyepi fell on March 16, 2010, the village folk of Tenganan were not shuttered up in their homes but were busily making preparations for the piodalan or anniversary of a local temple, Pura Sri, that fell on the following day, March 17th.

The Chief of Tenganan village, I Nengah Timur, explained: "Here, we don't know Nyepi. In fact, the next day (after Nyepi) we had to prepare materials for the piodalan of Pura Sri which falls all Ngembak Geni (March 17th)."

And, even thought the people of Tenganan don't observe Nyepi, village officials do urge locals to honor the day of silence observed by the rest of Bali. "Even though we don't celebrate (Nyepi), we ask our villagers to pay homage to Nyepi," added Timur.

While the normal prayers and ritual that accompany Nyepi on the rest of Bali are absent in Tenganan, many locals stay indoors during the period out of respect to those observing the day of quiet who live just outside their walled community. At the very least, according to Timur, the residents of Tenganan do not stray beyond their walls during the 24 hours of silence during Nyepi.

A similar sentiment was voiced by the pemangku of Tenganan village, I Mangku Widya, who revealed there is no singular approach to Nyepi in his community, the result of local adherence to a ritual calendar markedly different from the rest of Bali.

"It's not that we don't observe Nyepi, in fact we do perform ‘Tawur Kesanga' (payments to the demons). But we are not uniform and compact in performing these rituals due to the differences in various calendars," said Widya.

The celebration of Nyepi with the name and traditions known to the rest of Bali remain foreign to the Bali Aga of Tenganan. Mangku Widya said it would require a process of socialization to introduce Nyepi and Galungan traditions to the people of his community which remains isolated in both location and time from the rest of Bali.