This March 2016 we will see a coinciding of two special events that together make for one very interesting day. This 9 March 2016, both Nyepi (Bali’s holy day of silence) and a total solar eclipse that will cover Indonesia in darkness could just make this the eeriest Nyepi Bali has ever experienced.
A total solar eclipse is when the Moon comes between the Sun and the Earth, blocking the light with it’s shadow (umbra). Where this shadow is cast upon the Earth depends on the path of the moon. This year, the umbra (and penumbra) will cast darkness upon parts of Indonesia, including Bali.
Total solar eclipses are relatively rare, occurring every 1-3 years and only in certain areas. They happen during a new moon, which is where Nyepi comes in.
Nyepi as many know, is Bali’s day of silence that brings in the new Çaka Calendar which is based on the cycles of the moon (much like the Gregorian calendar). Each month of the Çaka Calendar begins the day after a new moon (tilem), and Nyepi marks the first day of the first month of the new calendar. This is how and why the eclipse and Nyepi will fall upon the same day, both occurring on a new moon.
On Nyepi, from 6am on 9 March to 6am on 10 March, the island will be silent. The silence is said to trick the demons of the night that there is ‘no one home’, thus forcing them to leave the island. Thus, the streets remain deserted, everyone stays inside and stays quiet lest the spirits know of their existence. Work stops, play stops, even the airport closes. It is a day of self-reflection and introspection – and fasting and meditation for some. At night, none may light a fire or turn on lights (hotels/hospitals excluded).
Nyepi is already an incredibly eerie day; an island silent for 24 hours, where else can you have such a phenomenon? To add to this already haunting atmosphere, the night before Nyepi, the Ngrupuk ritual takes place. Ngrupuk sees the parading of the horrifying demon effigies known as Ogoh-Ogoh which symbolize the demonic or negative forces (Bhuta Kala). These are then burnt later that night to symbolize purification.
A night of parading demons, bonfires and then at 6am, Nyepi begins and the island is silent. Following that, at approximately 7.30am, the eclipse’s shadow will begin to fall upon Bali, at first the penumbra (pre-shadow), causing 40% of the Sun’s light to be blocked, then at around 8.30am, the umbra – around 90% darkness- will be cast upon Bali for an hour. [Sulawesi will be at the epicentre of the shadow with total darkness.]
So, for the first few hours of Nyepi, we will be in darkness – will the demons of the Ogoh-Ogoh festival come back out to play? Many rumour of the powers an eclipse grants those who are able to wield and harness black magic on the island, witches, locally known as leyak, may be in full-force this Nyepi. Who knows? Bali is a mystic place, we see it in its living culture every day, for that we are truly blessed and are often in awe. Whether you are superstitious or not, this will be a special Nyepi and one with an atmosphere you should do your best to absorb and appreciate, because there won’t be a moment like it again.
Too scared to spend Nyepi alone at home? See our chosen Nyepi 2016 Staycation Packages here and stay clear from the powers of the leyak!
Or, do you want to fully embrace this rare moment in history? Join Four Seasons for their Nyepi Eclipse Yoga, at both Four Seasons Sayan and Four Seasons Jimbaran.