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Nyepi Lives Up to it Name

The Start To The Bali-Hindu New Year Caka 1934 Passes Without Major Incident Under Intense Security Umbrella


Bali’s celebration of New Year and Nyepi passed without major incident, despite fear of terrorist reprisals following the shooting of five-suspected terrorist on Sunday, March 18, 2012.

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Across the island, traditional ogoh-ogoh parades were conducted by young Balinese men in traditional dress parading large floats, made from styrofoam and papier-mâché, through the island's streets. Frenzied in its pacing, these arak-fueled displays end as the mammoth statues are abandoned and set afire on the road sides as dizzied participants retire to their homes to start the day of absolute silence.

One of the largest displays of ogoh-ogoh was centered around the Catur Murka Monument in central Denpasar. Some 20 youth groups (sekka teruna) from four separate districts were invited to haul their ogoh-ogoh to the city-center to join in a massive parade that commenced at 4:00 p.m.

Traffic leading into the areas surrounding the Denpasar Museum and Governor’s official residence was diverted to make way for the ogoh-ogoh parade.

Kuta Falls Quiet

Meanwhile, in nearby Kuta renowned for its lively nightlife and entertainment outlets, streets fell strangely silent shortly after midnight as nightspots closed to allow staff time to return to their homes before the dawn curfew and the coming 24-hour period of absolute quite.

According to the State News Agency Antara, as midnight approached, entertainment spots surrounding the “Ground Zero” monument on Jalan Legian and the rest of Kuta fell empty; absent of the holiday revelry that is their wont.

Antara also reports that some tourists who arrived on Thursday evening flights at Bali’s Ngurah Rai International Airport were compelled to heave their luggage down streets, closed to vehicular traffic for ogoh-ogoh parades, in order to arrive at their hotels.

A guard at the Grand Istana Rama Kuta Hotel on the popular Kuta beachside boulevard said that starting from 10:00 pm on Thursday evening many of the hotel guests had already retreated to their rooms, much unlike a typical night when guests stay out untill the early morning hours.

Entertainment venues on Jalan Legian and on roads leading to Kuta beach saw the sound of loud music emanating replaced with the crash of breaking waves. The profound silence only punctuated by the intermittent landing and taking off of aircraft from Bali's airport that continued until 4:00 am.

The silence on what are often the busiest and noisiest part of Bali, became even more eerily pronounced as street lights, commercial signs and stoplights were turned off one-by-one, remaining without illumination until dawn on Saturday.

A Bomb Hoax

A separate report from Antara reports rumors of a bomb causing the dispersion of an ogoh-ogoh parade in Kedonganan, Jimbaran – just south of Bali’s airport.

The bomb threat, eventually branded a hoax, was sourced to a 45-year-old man, I Wayan Suarda,also known as "Pak Polar," who lives in Banjar Menega, Jimbaran. Suarda was reportedly intoxicated when he created the mischievous rumor of a bomb to be targeted against his neighbors.

Police have taken “Polar” into custody for further questioning and to face the possible legal consequences of his fraudulent report.

The District Chief (Camat) of South Kuta, Made Puja, confirmed the news of a bomb was a hoax, saying: “There is no bomb in this area, only the rumor of one. We regret how easy it has become for someone to create gossip.”

Fireworks and Firecracker

Antara also reports, that despite a police order outlawing the use of fireworks and firecrackers [See: And the Rockets Red Glare], the sound of fireworks were heard over wide areas on the eve before Nyepi.

As public lighting was extinguished at midnight, many neighborhood groups ignored police rules and exploded firecrackers

Lock Down

Laurensius Wisnu Aditya, front office manager of the Aerowisata Sanur Beach Hotel told Antara that the hotel continued to receive guest until 4:30 am, after which their doors were closed.

Devout Balinese marked the coming sunrise as the start of a 24-hour period in which no work can be performed, no fire lit, no light illuminated, no travel undertaken and for the abstinence from life’s normal pleasures.

Local vigilante groups (pacalang) comprised of banjar members patrolled the streets to ensure all followed the rules of Nyepi.

Because Nyepi fell this year on Friday, special accommodations were made for Muslim members of the community to walk to their nearest mosque for Friday prayers that were held without the aid of the customary sound amplification.

Impact of Terror Raid on Nyepi

Antara also reports that Nyepi celebrations in the Sanur section of Bali were partially curtailed as a result of the raids four days earlier that left five suspected terrorists dead.

The Densus 88 elite-police raid on a brothel in Sanur occurred in area bordering Banjang Blanjon and Banjang Semawang.

While Bali police officials are trying to now depict the men killed in the raids as common criminals rather than terrorists, the involvement of the national anti-terror squad and numerous press reports listing Bali businesses as the “terrorists’ targets” has created an impression that Bali has just narrowly escaped another terror attack.

Clearly, security forces were on a state of high alert during Nyepi celebrations that fell this year on a Friday, the day on which Bali’s Moslems attend a mosque to pray. Traditional neighborhood security forces (Pacalang) were especially vigilant in strictly maintaining public order and enforcing the rules of absolute silence came into effect for 24-hours at dawn on March 23, 2012. Moslem members of the community, however, were allowed to briefly leave their home to walk to Friday prayers.

Reflecting the lingering tension following the police shooting of the five men, an Ogoh-Ogoh Festival set to be held in Sanur’s Banjar Semawang on Nyepi Eve was cancelled.

Gusti Gede Suparta, the chairman of the organizing committee for the Ogoh-Ogoh Festival told Antara on Thursday, March 23, 2012: “It should have taken place tonight (Thursday). But because there was no guarantee of security from the police, the Festival Ogoh-Ogoh was canceled.”

Substantial funds had already been expended in preparation for the canceled festival, including the printing of one thousand tickets. Hundred of foreign tourists staying at starred hotels in Sanur had already purchased tickers costing between Rp. 90,000 – Rp. 125,000 (US$10 –US$14).

Suparta, who is also the head of the Semawang Banjar in the traditional village of Intaran, continued: “The Hotel Sanur Bali Beach and the Hyatt, had each ordered 200 tickets. But, because the event was canceled, the purchase price of the tickers will be returned to the guests via their hotels.”

The festival was originally scheduled to take place in front of the Semawang Banjar Hall, at an intersection only 800 from Bungalow 88, the location where police shot three men four nights before.

Despite the festival’s cancellation, hotel guests in Sanur were still able to enjoy the pre-Nyepi merrymaking, with no less than 33 ogoh-ogoh paraded through the streets of Sanur and, in some cases, the parking lots of area hotels.

Related Articles

[And the Rockets Red Glare]

[We Interrupt this Broadcast]

[Prayers Offered in Silence]

[Silent Days and Silent Nights]

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