04 March 2011


Tirtigangga, Bali - Nyepi Day (part two): If one believed in demons and such like, one could easily get the impression that Bali is a dangerous place to live. From the amount of appeasing or not aggravating of them that goes on, one gets the feeling that nasty spirits are everpresent, always ready to make you suffer if you let your guard down.

Even the benevolent gods have tempers. If you decide you want to climb Mt. Agung – Bali’s holiest – you dare not speak, not even whisper, try not to even think if you can avoid it the name of Ratu, the god who lives up there. That makes him mad and you don’t want to do that. He might smight you and you are, after all, on the exposed slope of an active volcano – probably not a good place to get smote.

And it’s questionable just how benevolent he is anyhow. Bali does have great soil, it’s growing season is year round, thanks to its volcanoes. But every so often one of them erupts and flattens and burns all sorts of stuff that was simply minding its own business. The last time Mt. Agung threw a big fit, a bunch of monks at Besakih temple – the holiest on the island and on the mountain’s slope – threw themselves into the lava flows to appease Ratu. Everyone says that stopped the lava flows and saved the temple. Well, I don’t say that, but everyone else does.

And of course if you’re a woman and you’re having your period, just forget about it. There are so many place you aren’t supposed to go that every menstruation day is like Nyepi day for you.

So if you believe in demons, well, you’ve got to do something about them or you are being irresponsible. Right?

The Balinese do all sorts of stuff on an ongoing basis to keep the demons at bay. But on the night before Nyepi they parade a whole bunch of them, called Ogoh-Ogoh, made out of paper mache, around the streets, through the villages, hoisted on bamboo platforms carried by often drunk young noisy men, accompanied by raucous gamelan marching bands (I actually heard some ingenious combination of percussion instruments sound vaguely like Hendrix) and the usual buzz and fumespew of millions of motorbikes.

Then they burn them. If they’re still in any shape to burn. It poured rain off and on yesterday and as many of you might recall from childhood, rain and paper mache don’t mix.

Here’s some pics:


Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Beautiful floats/gods, but one looked suspiciously like Rudolph. Is that what he does in the off season?

Eric said...

I think it is. Can't think of a better place to shake the cold of the North Pole out of your system than Bali.