Friday, 11 April 2014

Nyepi | The Atlantic's In Focus

Photo © Agung Parameswara/Getty Images-All Rights Reserved
The Atlantic's In Focus (which, in my long held view, is the best photography blog of all the major news media) has recently published a gallery featuring 27 photographs of Nyepi.

Every year, the Indonesian island of Bali celebrates Nyepi, the Balinese New Year's Day. Nyepi is a day of silence, and is dedicated to self-reflection. It's the day when people (Balinese Hindus and tourists) stay home and are not allowed to use lights, start fires, work, travel or enjoy entertainment. There is little or no noise from TVs and radios, and few signs of activity are seen even inside homes.

However, the days surrounding Nyepi are anything but silent - several rituals of offering and cleansing take place before and after New Year's Day, to rid worshipers of past evils and bestow good fortune in the year ahead.

I haven't been to Bali during Nyepi, but I attended a number of Melasti rituals which start off Nyepi, but are also frequently held all though the year.  A Melasti ritual is performed near the sea, and is intended to purify various sacred icons belonging to several temples. During the festival, sacred purifying water is obtained from the sea.

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved
In the above photograph, I photographed a Melasti in Bali during which a number of women (and men) lost conciousness and went into short trances. The one above was particularly interesting because it coincided when the sacred water from the sea was brought onshore in a large bottle (seen on the left under the white umbrella).