While it seems like in Sardinia the approach of the spring has been very rough and rainy, in Bali the rainy season seems almost finished. March has been a turbulent month for me, but an important month for the Balinese: Nyepi Day (or silence day) was celebrated the 21th of the month, soon after the Ogoh-Ogoh ceremony that precedes it and just before the “Omed-Omedan” ceremony. If you have been here during the vernal equinox you probably know what I am talking about, but if you are not, then I owe you at least an explanation.
Basically, the Balinese Hindu follow two calendars: the Pawukon calendar and the Saka\Sasih calendar. The Pawukon is weeks- based calendar (Wuku = Week) that lasts 210 days and whose complex composition I still can’t manage to understand. The Sasih calendar (Sasih = Month) instead, has a much simple structure: it’s based on the moon cycles and the new year begins with the vernal equinox; a year lasts 12 months and its length is approximately the same of the Gregorian calendar. Sasih calendar originates from the Indian Saka Hindu era, which begun in the 78 A.D. The beginning of the Saka\Sasih year, in contrast to how we celebrate the New Year in the western cultures, is celebrated with a full day of silence: the so-called Nyepi Day. Nyepi for the Balinese is a day of meditation and self-reflection, where the Man shows a symbolic control over himself and the forces of the world. For this reason, in Bali on Nyepi Day nobody beside the Pecalangs (security guards) is allowed to go out, make noise or turn any light on. I tried all my best to respect the tradition avoid turning on the lights, but after spending the whole day in silence, I couldn’t resist the temptation to seal the windows and enjoy a movie.
Nyepi is just the third day of the 6 days of ceremonies for the New Year. To be honest, I don’t know much about all of them, but I had the chance to join some of them and it was worth it.
DRIVE OUT THE EVIL
On the day before Nyepi takes place the Ogoh-Ogoh celebration: a very colorful and interesting parade that reminds me of carnival, but with no masks, almost no alcohol, plenty huge statues carried on the shoulders by bunches of people and a clear meaning. Indeed, the statues represent the evil forces that must be driven out in order to let the New Year come in harmony, purifying the environment from the spiritual pollutants emitted by the living beings For this reason, all this really well made and huge artworks are burnt or completely destroyed after the ceremony. Interesting isn’t it?
Balinese Hindu culture is definitely picturesque.
TRADITIONS, DUMPS, RICE FIELDS AND COW S**T
When I started writing this blog I thought I had not much to tell. I’m realizing right now that actually in the second part of March was not as flat as I believed. You might be wondering: what does connect tradition, dumps and cow shit? Actually nothing. But traditions, non-illegal dumps and cow shit were the key elements of the trip me and Susanna did to Pejeng, a quite small village near Ubud that still keeps almost intact costumes and traditions, struggling to resist to the huge flow of foreign investments and the type of development that is sweeping the locals and their identity away. Understanding what’s going on – and offer support – is pretty much the reasons why we went up there: thanks to the perseverance of the Banjar, some help from the Govern and the support of LITE Foundation, Pejeng is trying to refuse this sneaky eviction, and that’s pretty interesting. I am not sure I understood everything, but basically the community is trying to generate sustainable incomes and “raw materials” in order to resist and not to have to sell their lands.
Thanks to a really nice local guy, we had the chance to visit on of the eco-farms in which the villagers are producing cooking gas and high-quality (and expensive) fertilizers out of cow shit. The foundation is also trying to train the local farmers to grow different plants that can be sold for a good price, and to introduce them to breeding techniques that can help the village to be as much self-sufficient as possible.
In Pejeng, among the rice fields and the hills, I also had the chance to see the umpteenth illegal dumping, where most of the rubbish from Ubud is collected.
We also had a nice chat with the director of Tacca, the green school located at the entrance of the village. Looks like they are open for volunteers who have interest in kids, gardening, dance and sports. It was a nice proposal but I don’t feel like I want to do it now. Maybe in the future =)
BACK TO THE FUTURE
At the end the month, we headed to Singapore for a 4 days trip for the renewal of our VISA permit. Definitely not the kind of city I would ever live in, but it was nice to see something new and get out from a Bali for a few days.