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What it's like to be a part of Balinese New Year celebrations

  • Ogoh Ogoh are lined up before being paraded through the streets of Ubud.

    The demons of Ubud

    Once a year, demons run amok on the Indonesian island of Bali. These demons – or Ogoh Ogoh as they are referred to in Bali – are created by Balinese villagers as part of six days of traditional ceremonies recognizing the Hindu New Year. As part of the Bhuta Yajna ritual, these demonic effigies are paraded through the streets the night before Bali’s "Day of Silence," then symbolically burned. Nyepi will take place on Thursday, March 7 in 2019.

    Photo courtesy of Wendy O'Dea

  • Villagers prepare to carry the Ogoh Ogoh as part of the Pengrupukan ceremony.

    Village traditions

    Young men from villages around Ubud step into the bamboo grid upon which the Ogoh Ogoh is built, before carrying the papier mâché monster through the streets of Ubud, Bali's cultural capital. 

    Photo courtesy of Wendy O'Dea

  • Getting close up to the Ogoh Ogoh.

    Evil spirits return

    The Ogoh Ogoh symbolize the return of evil spirits to Bali once a year. At 6 a.m., the morning after they are paraded through the streets, Bali's Day of Silence begins. On this day of self-reflection, no one is allowed to leave their homes, use electricity (that goes for devices too), cook or participate in any activities. Local laws require that all activity comes to a stop. Exceptions are made at hotels and resorts, but travelers must stay on property and there are no flights departing or arriving in Bali.

    Photo courtesy of Wendy O'Dea

  • The Ogoh Ogoh parade in Ubud, Bali.

    Parading Ogoh Ogoh through the streets

    The mythical Ogoh Ogoh are built by members of the banjars (village associations) in the months leading up to Nyepi. Locals also clang cymbals and pans to drive away the evil spirits.

    Photo courtesy of Wendy O'Dea

  • Children participate in carrying the Ogoh Ogoh through Ubud.

    Passing on the traditions

    Young children participate in the festivities and join fellow villagers in carrying a smaller Ogoh Ogoh through the city streets. 

    Photo courtesy of Wendy O'Dea

  • The Bhuta Yajna Ritual

    Bhuta Yajna and Ngrupuk rituals

    While some Ogoh Ogoh can be built as high as 25 feet, others are less intimidating. The Ngrupuk ritual, when the Ogohs are set aflame to symbolize the banishment of the demons from the island, follows the Bhuta Yajna (parade) on Nyepi eve. 

    Photo courtesy of Wendy O'Dea

  • Nagi villagers attempt to ward off evil spirits with flaming coconut husks.

    Banishing negativity

    On the outskirts of Ubud, in the village of Nagi, young men participate in the Mesabatan Api (fire battle) on the eve of Nyepi. The firefight hearkens to the 1700s when it's believed that evil spirits brought on the plague and were only banished through an exorcism with fire. Today, locals believe that being hit by a burning coconut husk will rid them of negativity going into the new year.

    Photo courtesy of Wendy O'Dea

  • The fire battle rages in Nagi.

    Nagi firefight

    As part of the fire ritual in Nagi, young villagers in checkered sarongs gather around a bonfire of palm leaves and burning coconut husks. Visitors are welcome, including those from the nearby Viceroy Bali hotel, but must stay alert as these fiery balls can land anywhere.

    Photo courtesy of Wendy O'Dea

  • Stoking the fire on Nyepi eve in Nagi.

    Sacred flames

    Villagers stoke the fire before swinging the blazing coconut husks at each other with bare hands to ward off the evil spirits.

    Photo courtesy of Wendy O'Dea

  • The fire procession in the Nagi.

    Fire processions

    Young girls lead a fire-lit procession through the village of Nagi to scare off demons.

    Photo courtesy of Wendy O'Dea

  • Enjoying a day off the grid at the Viceroy Bali hotel in Ubud.

    A day off the grid

    While visitors to Bali are not required to meditate, stay indoors or fast, they must stay on their hotel property from 6 a.m. on Nyepi until 6 a.m. the following morning. Hotel staff sleep on site and are allowed to do minimal work to meet the needs of hotel guests. Here, two visitors lounge in the infinity pool overlooking Ubud's Valley of the Kings at the Viceroy Bali.

    Photo courtesy of Wendy O'Dea

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