Traffic was stopped today at crossroads all over Bali for picturesque scenes of demon appeasement, as Balinese gathered in their ceremonial dress laden with offerings for the restless forces of nature. Wholes villages sat on the ground in their finest clothes while offerings were made to maintain the cosmic balance between man and nature.
When it got dark, after the purifications and offerings, the demons came out to play. The children and teenagers came screaming through, carrying huge papier-mache Ogoh-Ogoh monsters mounted on bamboo platforms. They bounced them and span in circles, making them come alive, sometimes charging so close to the crowd they left scrums in their wake, all the while howling. Some Ogoh Ogoh were comical and some were frightening enough to give children nightmares. All of them took many hours of work and were preceded by gamelan bands playing percussion while kids as young as ten chugged on kerosene and spat fire.
These demons symbolise the disruptive power of nature and the evil in man. After raising a unholy chaos at the crossroads they are taken away and burnt.
Balinese love a show and it was good one, which is just as well because tomorrow there is nothing going on. As in nothing, no work, no cars, no electricity and no leaving your house, there aren’t even flights into the international airport, you’re not even supposed to have sex.
During the silent day of Nyepi, Balinese will practice Yoga Semedi and Catur Berata Penyepian meditation, Amati Geni, which forbids them; from lighting fires and switching on lights, Amati Karya, from working, Amati Lelanguan, from enjoying leisure activities and Amati Lelungan, from leaving their houses.
After tonights carnival Bali will be darkened and silent for the whole day, while the devout will fast and pray, contemplating Sunia, the sacred silence within. This is Yoga, Balinese style. Ritual chaos, purification by fire and water followed by silent union between man and his universe.
Free-diving and Yoga will resume the day after tomorrow on the first day of the new year.