On an island deeply-rooted in its religion and culture, the Balinese calendar is filled with religious ceremonies and rituals all year round. But what will happen to these events while we are amidst the Covid-19 pandemic? The Balinese government has issued statements regarding the limitations of the upcoming Ogoh-Ogoh Parade and Melasti Ceremony to isolate the spread of the virus.

Last edit: 24 March 2020

As the Covid-19 pandemic becomes increasingly worrisome on the island of Bali, many businesses and hospitality chains are shutting down to limit the spread of the virus, with employees being asked to work from home. With Hari Raya Nyepi (Balinese Day of Silence) falling on Wednesday, 25 March 2020, the question remains, what will happen to the religious ceremonies and parades during this global pandemic?

Ogoh-Ogoh Parade and Melasti Ceremony

The Balinese Day of Silence is one of the most anticipated events in the Balinese calendar. Whilst the auspicious day will see the whole island fall silent as the Hindu Balinese isolate themselves at home in silence for 24 hours, inhabitants of the island has started applying self-isolation as encouraged during this pandemic.

The Ogoh-Ogoh Parade, a pre-Nyepi event that falls one day before Nyepi, is a highly-awaited parade that is held throughout the island where big, colourful and unique statues are paraded around by the Hindu Balinese.

According to BALIPOST.com, the Governor of Bali, I Wayan Koster, along with the Balinese government has banned any activities that include mass gatherings in order to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in Bali. Therefore, the Ogoh-Ogoh parade in conjunction with Hari Raya Nyepi will no longer proceed.

This decision will no doubt cause disappointment for a lot of people including the ‘yowana’ and ‘krama’ of Bali. In a press statement on Monday (3/23), Gede Pramana, Head of the Office of Communication, Information and Statistics of the Province of Bali, said “The Governor of Bali is very understanding of this condition. But we must obey and be disciplined in following government policies for the sake of saving humanity.”

According to Pramana, the Governor appreciates the creativity and innovative works of art in the making of ogoh-ogoh of the ‘yowana’ from the traditional villages of Bali. Moreover, ogoh-ogoh has generally been made with environmentally friendly materials without Styrofoam, since the implementation of Pergub No. 97 of 2018 concerning the Limitation of Disposable Plastic Waste Disposal.

After much deliberation and discussion with the regents and mayors of Bali, along with the Head of the PDHI in Bali and MDA of the Bali Province, the Governor of Bali has decided to move the Ogoh-Ogoh festival/parade to coincide with the 62nd Anniversary of the Bali Province.

The district/city judging team will conduct an ogoh-ogoh evaluation to each customary village to determine the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners. The 1st place winners from each regency/city will be invited to the 62nd Anniversary event of the Bali Province, on 14 August 2020, to receive awards and prizes rewarded by the Governor himself. Moreover, prizes for the 2nd and 3rd winners will be awarded by the regent/mayor.

The evaluations will be conducted in early August 2020. The 1st place winner will receive a cash prize of IDR 50 million, while the 2nd place winner will receive IDR 35 million and the 3rd place winner will receive IDR 25 million.

Additionally, the Ogoh-Ogoh parade will occur simultaneously in all traditional villages in Bali on Saturday, 8 August 2020, from 4pm until finished. The parade will be accompanied by Balinese gamelan and may not use gamelan recordings. The participants of the parade are obliged to dress in Balinese customs and must be carried out in orderly and responsible conduct.

In addition, several ceremonies and rituals leading up to Nyepi such as Melasti, the Hindu Balinese purification ceremony, will still proceed, albeit with several limitations and restrictions. According to beritabali.com, the ‘pengempon’ party of Pura Puseh Denpasar have decided to hold Melasti in the ‘ngubeng’ way, meaning the purification ritual and procession will be held strictly at Pura Puseh without mass deployment to the beach.

These actions and precautions are immensely crucial during hard times like this, where the health and safety of all inhabitants of the island must be the number one priority. Although events that attract mass gatherings are best to be put on hold, its understandable that events such as Nyepi, which is an integral part of the religion and culture of the Hindu Balinese, proceed as usual. 

Yet, this pandemic must not be taken lightly and that safety measures during these religious events must be laid out and followed diligently to protect the virus from spreading further. To the other inhabitants of the island, we cannot stress more the importance of staying at home during this pandemic, whether you’re sick or not, do not go out unless it is an emergency, maintain your cleanliness and hygiene, and most important of all, keep each other safe.

• https://regional.kompas.com/read/2020/03/17/23263891/siaga-corona-di-bali-wisatawan-dilarang-ikuti-pawai-ogoh-ogoh
• https://www.news.beritabali.com/read/2020/03/20/202003200014/cegah-corona-pura-puseh-denpasar-gelar-melasti-ngubeng

Brian Sjarief

Brian Sjarief

Brian is a writer at NOW! Bali. He developed his central interest in the arts from an early age, pursuing his studies in Motion Pictures & Television in San Fransisco with a focus on screenwriting. Through this long-held passion for film, he now channels his creativity into storytelling, be it written, visual or otherwise.