Nyepi and Ramadan Observances Align This Year in Indonesia

Nyepi and Ramadan Observances Align This Year in Indonesia

DENPASAR, LELEMUKU.COM - Two major religious observances coincided in Indonesia on Wednesday as Nyepi, a Balinese Hindu festival, shut down most activity on Bali island for 24 hours, and Muslims prepared to begin the Ramadan month of fasting and prayer.

In a rare alignment of these observances, whose dates shift each year because the religions follow lunar calendars, Balinese Hindus abstained from work, travel, entertainment and using electricity during Nyepi, which fell on Wednesday and was to last until Thursday morning.

Muslims, who are Indonesia’s religious majority but a minority on Bali, meanwhile were expecting to start observing Ramadan on Wednesday night, followed by their first full day of dawn-to-dusk fasting the next day.

To respect both faiths, interfaith leaders and local authorities in Bali agreed on some measures.

Muslims were asked to perform their prayers at home or at nearby mosques without loudspeakers or bright lights, while businesses were banned from advertising their services with references to either celebration.

Mobile data and internet services were turned off for everyone except essential workers.

We call on people to maintain brotherhood and mutual respect,” said Mahrusun Hadiono, the head of the Indonesian Ulema Council in Bali, an influential Islamic body.

Nyepi, known as the Day of Silence, marks the new year in the local Saka calendar. It is preceded by rituals of purification and cleansing, such as Melasti, when sacred objects are carried to the sea or other water sources, and Pangrupukan, when giant effigies of evil spirits are paraded and burned.

The only people allowed on the streets are pecalang, traditional security officers who ensure that everyone observes the rules of Nyepi. Even Bali’s international airport in Denpasar shuts down for 24 hours.

The silence is meant to ward off any negative forces and allow people to reflect on themselves. Hindus follow four main rules: no work, no travel, no entertainment and no fire. Some also fast or meditate.

Nyepi is one of the most important religious festivals in Bali, Indonesia’s main tourist destination and home to most of its Hindu minority.

“I think Nyepi is a very special series of ceremonies because I can give more space to my heart to be calm and peaceful,” said Ni Putu Suaryanti, a resident of Denpasar, Bali’s capital.

She said she had prepared offerings for the gods before Nyepi and prayed at a temple with her family in the morning. Then she waited for the time to perform pecaruan, a ritual to balance nature around her house.

“We light fires to scare away evil spirits so they don’t disturb us and Nyepi goes smoothly tomorrow,” she said.

The night before Nyepi is known as Ngrupuk, when Balinese Hindus parade around with ogoh-ogoh, giant effigies depicting demons and evil spirits that are later burned or destroyed.

Nyepi is derived from an ancient Indian tradition that commemorates a period of peace after a long conflict among different tribes.

“Nyepi is a time to cleanse ourselves from all impurities,” said I Wayan Suwena, a professor of cultural studies at Udayana University in Bali who has researched Nyepi. “It is also a time to appreciate nature and its resources.”

Ramadan, which is expected to start on Wednesday night – depending on the sighting of the moon – is also a time of spiritual renewal for Muslims, who believe that God revealed the Quran to Prophet Muhammad during this month.

Followers of Islam refrain from food, drink and sexual activity from dawn until sunset as an act of devotion and self-discipline. They also increase their prayers, charity and recitation of scripture.

Hanafi, a Muslim resident of Singaraja in North Bali, praised the atmosphere of tolerance in Bali.

“Our mothers will have a slight problem preparing sahur [a pre-dawn meal before the start of the day’s fast] for tomorrow because markets are closed,” he said with a laugh.

Despite their differences, both Nyepi and Ramadan share some common values such as peace, harmony and self-improvement, Suwena said.

“They are both expressions of human spirituality that can enrich our lives,” he said. (Lu De Suriyani | BenarNews)

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