Saturday, March 22, 2014
Ni Komang Erviani, The Jakarta Post, Denpasar | Election Watch | The Grand Council of Customary Villages (MUDP) has strongly urged all legislative candidates and political parties in Bali to remove their campaign paraphernalia lining the streets by March 30, as Balinese Hindus across the island will be marking Nyepi, the Day of Silence, the following day. The council, an umbrella organization for nearly 1,500 desa pekraman (customary villages), will be sending letters to all relevant parties, including political parties as well as Bali’s General Elections Commission (KPUD) and Elections Monitoring Agency (Bawaslu) regarding the matter. “We hope that all campaign materials will be taken down to maintain the solemn atmosphere of Nyepi,” MUDP chairman Jero Gede Suwena Putus Upadesha said in a meeting at the KPUD on Friday. The meeting was also attended by representatives from several political parties and their legislative candidates. Nyepi, which falls on March 31, marks the start of the Lunar Year in the Balinese Caka calendar. On the day, Balinese Hindus perform the four abstinences, which comprise amati geni (abstaining from lighting fires or lights); amati karya (abstaining from work); amati lelungan (abstaining from traveling outside one’s home); and amati lelanguan (abstaining from leisure activities). The whole island becomes a quiet, peaceful sanctuary on Nyepi. On the day before Nyepi, devotees will perform the sacrificial ritual, Tawur Kesanga. Tawur Kesanga is carried out at several levels, starting from the highest at the island’s mother temple, Pura Besakih, down to the regencies, villages, hamlets and households. The ritual is aimed at strengthening relations between humans, the environment and God. Tawur Kesanga ends in the afternoon and is followed in the evening by ngerupuk, a street parade with village youth groups carrying bamboo torches and ogoh-ogoh (giant effigies in the form of terrifying creatures). Ngerupuk aims to ward off bhuta kala (malevolent spirits and evil forces). Suwena said he hoped all legislative candidates and political parties would respect the rituals by removing their paraphernalia from March 30 through March 31. “Please give a chance to Hindu devotees to perform their worship in a solemn, peaceful and calm environment. It is only temporary. After Nyepi, they can put back all their campaign materials,” he said. He added that the MUDP would be grateful if political parties voluntarily removed their campaign materials by March 28, when the melasti purification ritual would be performed to mark the beginning of Nyepi. During the melasti procession, Hindus take their pretima (sacred objects) to beaches, lakes or springs to be cleansed. Suwena said the reason behind the removal request was that campaign materials could trigger conflict, which could destroy the peace of Nyepi. “The state has acknowledged Nyepi by declaring it a public holiday. The world has also acknowledged Nyepi by accepting the local custom of closing Ngurah Rai International Airport on that day. We really hope that all legislative candidates and political parties will also respect the day,” he said. He conveyed his appreciation for the agreement made between the political parties and the KPUD to halt campaigning from March 28 to April 1 to honor the Nyepi celebrations. Secretary of the Golkar Party’s local chapter, Komang Purnama, said Golkar would respect the MUDP’s request. “We will instruct our candidates to take down their campaign materials,” he said. Ketut Ridet from the Democratic Party also conveyed his support. “We have already told our candidates to take down their campaign materials three days before Nyepi to honor the blessed day,” he said.
Sunday, March 16, 2014
Bali is located at the westernmost section of the Lesser Sunda Islands of Indonesia. To Bali’s west lies the island of Java and to its east is Lombok. From east to west, Bali is only about 95 miles (153 km) wide and 69 miles (112 km) long with a land area of approximately 2,175 square miles (5,632 sq. km). Coral reefs surround the island of Bali, creating an idyllic vacation area for tourists seeking scuba diving and snorkeling. Bali is a veritable paradise with white sand beaches in the southern part of the island and black sand beaches in the north, drawing tourist from around the world. One of Bali’s striking characteristics is the major religion of the island. Approximately 93 percent of its three million people practice Balinese Hinduism. This fact is extremely relevant because Indonesia, with a population of 237 million, has the largest Muslim population in the world. Anthropologists believe the island of Bali has been populated since prehistoric times. The first people on the island likely migrated from Taiwan through Maritime Southeast Asia (Malay Archipelago). Scientists have found human-made stone tools and earthenware vessels on the island dating more than 3,000 years old. The earliest written records of the island’s history are stone inscriptions from the 9th century. Though little is known about Bali in particular around this time, it is believed that seafaring traders from India brought Hinduism to the Indonesian archipelago. From 1293 to around 1500, an archipelagic empire called the Majapahit (mah-JAP-ah-hit) based on the island of Java ruled much of the Malay Archipelago. Even as the Majapahit Empire began to collapse into disputing sultanates, the dynasty in Bali maintained control on the island. For this reason, many of the intellectuals of the Majapahit relocated to Bali, including Niratha, a priest credited with introducing many of the complexities of Balinese religion to the island. Also around this time, many artists, dancers, musicians and actors fled to Bali, thus generating an explosion of culture there. Today, Bali is renowned for its varied and highly developed art forms. Most Indonesian islands increasingly embraced Islam and it became the dominant religion in Java and Sumatra by the end of the 16th century. Bali, on the other hand, retained its Hindu roots. Balinese Hinduism permeates nearly every aspect of traditional life in Bali. The religion is a combination of Hindu influences from mainland Southeast Asia and South Asia and existing local beliefs. Rooted in Indian Hinduism and Buddhism, Balinese Hinduism also incorporates many animistic and magical traditions of Bali’s indigenous people. The religion of Bali is deeply connected with art and ritual, while the Islam of Indonesia is embedded with scripture, law and belief. The followers of Balinese Hinduism are particularly known for their graceful and gentle behavior. Bali is the largest tourist destination in Indonesia. The tourism boom began in the 1970s and helped bring marked improvements to roads, health, education and telecommunications. Tourism is Bali’s largest industry, making it one of Indonesia’s wealthiest areas. Despite its perceived remoteness, Bali has been impacted by the same Islamic extremism that affects other areas of the world. When militants bombed popular Bali nightclub area in 2002 and tried again in a shopping area in 2005, the tourism industry initially suffered each time, but tourists’ visits quickly rebounded. Some Islamic extremists apparently view Bali as a decadent non-Muslim society in the midst of a predominantly Muslim region. The very fact is, however, that Bali is beautiful, modern, sophisticated, wealthy, exciting and recently relatively safe, making it a desired tourist destination of world renown. Sources: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/asia/article6788699.ece ; and http://www.lonelyplanet.com/indonesia/bali/history
Sunday, March 2, 2014
Bali International Airport closed for Nyepi Those planning to travel to the fabled island of Bali towards the end of March, please note that the entire island will come to a complete standstill for the Balinese New Year of Nyepi which this year falls on Monday, 31st March 2014. To allow all to follow the prescribed rituals, all traffic all over Bali will come to a complete halt. No planes will be allowed to land or take off for 24 hours. All shops are closed and no one is allowed on the beach or on the streets. Governor of Bali, Made Mangku Pastika, has sent an official announcement letter to four related ministries (Ministry of Transportation, Ministry of Foreign Affair, Ministry of Domestic Affair, and Ministry of Communication) regarding the temporary closure of Ngurah Rai International Airport on the respected day. “The letter has been sent early (dated 30th December 2013) with the expectation that it can be distributed to all related parties, both nationally and the international world” said the Head of the Public Relations Bureau of the Provincial Government of Bali, I Ketut Teneng on Denpasar, Tuesday 25th February as reported by bisniswisata.co. With the announcement, it is expected that both domestic and international airlines will not schedule flights during that day. However, although this is a public holiday for the whole of Indonesia, outside the island of Bali, all air, land and sea traffic as well as other activities continue as normal. Nyepi is the ritual of the Hindus of Bali to welcome the New Year based on the traditional Saka Calendar. For, contrary to other cultures that celebrate New Year with vivacious festivities, the pinnacle of Balinese New Year is a day of complete Silence. Hence the name Nyepi, meaning “to keep silent” in the local language, which falls on the day following the dark moon of the spring equinox. Nyepi is a day fully dedicated to connect oneself more closely with God (Hyang Widi Wasa) through prayers and at the same time as a day of self introspection to decide on values, such as humanity, love, patience, kindness, and others, that should be kept forever. As a day reserved for self-reflection anything that may interfere with that purpose is strictly prohibited. Nyepi mandates a day of absolute quiet, based on the four precepts of Catur Brata: · Amati Geni: Prohibiting the lighting of fires, the use of lighting or satisfying pleasurable human appetites. · Amati Karya: Prohibiting all forms of physical work other than those dedicated to spiritual cleansing and renewal. · Amati Lelungan: Prohibiting movement or travel; requiring people to stay within their homes. · Amati Lelangunan: Prohibiting all forms of entertainment, recreations or general merrymaking. The sudden silence comes after the eve of noisy festivities on the beaches of Kuta, Sanur, Nusa Dua, Seminyak and others with parades of giant puppets called “ogoh-ogoh” accompanied by clanging gongs and other percussion instruments. At the end of the festival the ogoh-ogoh are torched and are totally engulfed in flames. Although Nyepi is primarily a Hindu holiday, non-Hindu residents of Bali observe the day of silence as well, out of respect for their fellow citizens. Even tourists are not exempt; although free to do as they wish inside their hotels, no one is allowed on the beaches or streets, and the airport remains closed for the entire day. The only exceptions granted are for emergency vehicles carrying those with life-threatening conditions and women about to give birth. There will be local watchmen known as pecalang to ascertain that this rule is obeyed. At night, all lights will have to be turned off. Hotels will close all curtains that no ray of light shines to the outside. All sound and music indoors should be held to its lowest volume.