I didn't plan it, but it turned out that my first visit to Bali, back in 2013, coincided with the Balinese New Year. It's a big, big deal. First, there's Melasti, a festival in which every village carries its gods' statues down to the sea for a ritual cleansing (the irreverent might say a bath), then the evening of the day before the official New Year there's a procession of ogo ogo (demon) effigies through every village and then finally Nyepi, the Day of Silence. I witnessed the ogo ogo procession in the village where I was staying in the Banjar hills above Lovina on the north coast.
I misunderstood what I'd been told about the procession. I thought it would only go through the main street, so I set off downhill from the guesthouse, the Banjar Hills Retreat, towards the centre of the village. I'd only got a few hundred metres down the hill when I came face to face with the procession. I promptly turned around and dashed back uphill to the guesthouse. It turned out that the terrace was an excellent vantage point -- not that there was a bad one, since the procession would go down every street in the village.
The procession is of course accompanied by music. The music was provided by a band of village boys (see below). In fact, the boys and young men of each village do everything, from actually making the ogo ogo to carrying them in the procession.
The ogo ogo seem to be female. Or maybe they just have moobs?
I rather liked the one below. Judging by the number of bearers, it must have been a bit heavier than the others.
The ogo ogo bringing up the rear was clearly the pièce de resistance.
The procession is part of a ritual called Bhuta Yajna, the purpose of which is to exorcise negativity from the village. The ogo ogo effigies are burned after the procession. I didn't see the bonfire.
On the following day, Nyepi, or the Day of Silence, I stayed in as per the custom. It truly was a silent day. The guesthouse staff whispered to us when necessary, and we guests refrained from conversing. We were all strangers to one another, so that wasn't a tall order.
I spent most of the day here:
It's the lounge and dining pavilion of the Banjar Hills Retreat. The view downhill towards Lovina, not to mention up and down much of Bali's north coast, is truly stunning. On my last visit to the area, in 2015, I was saddened to see that the place appeared to be closed. If anyone has an update about it, please comment below.
The Balinese New Year usually falls in March. In 2018, Nyepi falls on 17 March -- which is why I'm posting this today -- and in 2019 on 6 March, so if you want to observe the celebrations next year, you can plan accordingly.
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