Nyepi 2013: The Ogoh-ogoh Festival – Denpasar, Bali

March 12, 2013 was a Nyepi day for the Hindus. Earlier in late February my granddad called me to invite me to come and see the Ogoh-ogoh Festival. He knew me too well, tempting me with religious, and culture festival to get me to come visit him in Denpasar. I’ll explain further, of course, and write more about my latest visit there, but I want to apologize first for procrastinating. As usual, procrastination always get the better of me, so instead of writing this as soon as I got back to Surabaya, instead I lingered and only now I that I finally typing this down as I’m sipping down my hot Americano at the nearest Starbucks.

The Ogoh-ogoh Festival I was talking about took place one day before the Nyepi day. Just in case you have no idea what “Nyepi” is and what is there to celebrate, please check or google it first, because I don’t plan to explain the detail here. You can also click the link here that’ll direct you to the Wikipedia description of Nyepi.

Briefly, during Nyepi the whole city is dead. No lights, no electricity, nothing at all. The ideal Nyepi would be for the Hindu-Balinese to literally do nothing. Even eating. Ideally, they would fast for 24 hour, starting from 6 AM (although the blackout would start the day before when sun set and it’s dark already) to 6 AM the day after. And during that silence, they would pray, or for the less religious ones, they would ponder, and do a self-reflection, thinking about their sins and giving thanks for things that they’re grateful for. Or something like that (please correct me if I write the wrong information). “Nyepi” itself means “quiet.” The streets would be literally empty since no one is supposed to go outside their house, except for the Pecalang, few people who are chosen to guard the streets, making sure no one’s out there to dishonor the Nyepi day. Exceptions are made only for emergency, life-threatening and security reasons (e.g. a security guard guarding a building). Even at night, I heard that the Pecalangs are still out there, making sure the lights are all off. Yet, my grandpa told me that now only very few people still do that. Most people would just stay at home idling, but they would still eat and do their routines at home. Of course, if they eat, most food would be prepared the day before, so on Nyepi, they wouldn’t have to cook.

As for the Ogoh-ogoh festival I referred to earlier, Ogoh-ogoh refer to a huge figure, created months before Nyepi, usually take their form of a scary monster they refer to “Buto Ijo,” which would later be paraded around the neighborhood in the afternoon until dark, and meant to be burnt by the end of the festival. I heard this is to symbolize the rid of evil. I suppose they believe that the evil, sometimes represented by the scary “Buto Ijo” would be scared with the fire burnt by the people, and when he meant to return the next day, he’d meet instead a dead city (everyone would “Nyepi” inside their houses) and so he decided not to return and move on. Depends on how big it is, an Ogoh-ogoh is usually paraded by a group of young people (varied from teenagers to adults), and for the smaller size, kids would take over the parade. Nowadays, though, there are a lot more variations to the shape and size of Ogoh-ogoh. I actually saw one resembling Spongesbob Squarepants, along with his snail, Gary, and Plankton. However, a few years ago apparently the Denpasar governor made a competition to exhibit these Ogoh-ogohs at Lapangan Puputan (Puputan Field). I suppose this is also created for a tourist attraction (and perhaps explains why it’s not getting any quieter or less crowded even though Nyepi is coming). The Ogoh-ogoh created for the competition usually take more conventional form. They usually made to look like the a huge monster, or a knight from Pewayangan riding a monster, or it would take form of two monster dueling against each other. Then another group of people would follow behind, bringing traditional musical instrument, playing traditional music. Unfortunately, I couldn’t be there for the announcement, because I heard the winner would be announced the week after. But it gets better. Apparently, aside from the Ogoh-ogoh made for the competition, other Ogoh-ogoh takes more varied forms, from Spongesbob to a giant Mummy, and the background music following them are also much more modern. As I walked back home from Lapangan Puputan, I saw a massive parade of Ogoh-ogoh, with giant speakers on a separate “carriage”, playing dub-step and techno music. The people parading them would stop to dance for a while as they stop to wait for the Ogoh-ogoh in front of them to move.

Of course, there are a lot more to my trip than just the Ogoh-ogoh festival, but that’ll be another post. As for now, I hope you enjoy the photos of Ogoh-ogoh I took.

5 thoughts on “Nyepi 2013: The Ogoh-ogoh Festival – Denpasar, Bali

  1. The parade reminds me of other famous public celebrations like the Rio carnival. Partly because of your great pictures, catchy description :). Though I’m not sure if the giant lady with the huge breasts is scary or tempting :).

    Though I ( of course :)) lack a dear and hospitable granddad who can invite me, I hope I can manage to be in Bali on one of the future occasions.

    1. Hahaha. I think the giant lady is creepy. I’d highly recommend you to go there and see the festival if you’ve never seen it before! Of course, make sure that you won’t need to buy anything later in the afternoon the day before Nyepi, because most shops in some places would most likely closed. ATM won’t work either, so that’s kind of a bummer. And make sure you have ready food during Nyepi!


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