Michael On Everything Else

Bali's Ogres

We recently moved to Bali just in time for their New Year celebration called Nyepi. Part of that celebration is to erect giant statues of mythical creatures called ogoh-ogoh (ogres). The ogoh-ogoh are mainly made from bamboo frames and paper mache covering. They often take weeks to build and the work is done typically by the young boys of each neighborhood (called banjar).

On the eve of Nyepi, different neighborhoods (banjar) parade the ogoh-ogoh through the streets and make a lot of noise banging drums and setting off noise canons (like potato guns sans potatoes). The goal is to get the attention of the bad spirits in the world, which will then be tempted to inhabit the ogoh-ogoh, which are eventually burned at the end of the parade. Then starting at 6a on Nyepi, no one on the entire island is allowed to leave their house or use any lights or electronics. This is meant to convince the evils spirits that everyone has left and then so will they. While everyone is ‘hiding’ inside from 6a to 6a on Nyepi (the day of silence), they are encouraged to reflect on the previous year. Also during this time, most internet access is cut off, cell data is cut off, TV and radio go silent, and even the international airport closes. It truly is amazing to see.

I’ve been in Bali to see Nyepi twice now and both times were rainy and overcast so I havn’t been able to enjoy the star-gazing that people talk about. But hopefully I’ll have a few more Nyepi’s to get to see the unpolluted night sky!

See also: Exploring Bali by Motorbike

Below are some pictures I took of the ogoh from our local neighborhood: