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An Invitation to the Monsterís Ball

Spending Nyepi in Bali Brings the Bonus of Witnessing Ogoh-Ogah Festivities

(3/3/2013) While many Bali visitors make it a point to avoid Bali over the day of mandatory silence – Nyepi Day – which falls this year on Tuesday, March 12, 2013.

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Ogoh-Ogoh Photography Courtesy of Joe Kennedy

But to not be in Bali on that date would also mean to deny yourself the unique festivities that take place on “Nyepi Eve” – a night of Mardi Gras-like partying with groups of young men from each village parading elaborately decorate floats bearing giant papier-mâché effigies - Ogoh-Ogoh through the streets of Bali. Borne on platforms constructed from trussed bamboo poles carried on the shoulders of the village men wearing traditional dress, the colorful figures vie for prizes and often engage in lively skirmishes at busy intersections.

Fueled on by generous quantities of arak, these Ogoh-Ogoh parades constitute a night-long party that only end on dawn, often with the burning of the effigies, before the revelers retire to their respective homes for 24-hours of mandatory meditation and reflection.

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The Ogoh-Ogoh statues are a treasured part of Bali’s cultural heritage, reflecting the Balinese reliance on Bhuta Khala – the antagonist in the eternal struggle between God and Demon; good and evil. Hindu Dharma teachings see Bhuta Kala as a necessary force of nature, the balancing influence that brings disease, catastrophe and misfortune to the community.

In fact, the propensity to do good and evil resides in every soul, represented by Bhuta Kala – traditionally a demon menacing mankind, paraded on “Nyepi Eve” to be communally exorcised and burnt on the eve of the New Year and, in so doing, celebrating the final victory of good over evil.

In recent times, the archetypical demon used to depict Bhuta Kala has been supplanted by more up-to-date nemesises portrayed as mythical animals, criminals, corrupt politicians and all other manner of unscrupulous individuals.

By confronting man’s darker side in the Ogoh-Ogoh parades, the devout are reminded of the practical choices each of us face in our daily lives to either do good or evil.

Guest wishing to enjoy Ogoh Ogoh festivities are best advised to make enquiries on activities in the vicinity of their accommodation location in Bali, avoiding the need for transportation on crowded and often hectic roadways common to “Nyepi Eve.”

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