Sat, 12 Mar 2005

'Nyepi' silence descends upon Bali

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The resort island of Bali went quiet on Friday as people on the predominantly Hindu island celebrated the Hindu Day of Silence, or Nyepi, on Friday.

Towns and villages across the island were deserted as people stayed indoors, avoiding light, work, entertainment and travel for 24 hours from dawn Friday until dawn Saturday.

Hindus contemplate their lives on the holiday, which marks the Hindu Saka New Year of 1927.

The celebration also affected non-Hindus, including foreign tourists. Some stayed put in hotels, while others escaped the quiet by going to Mataram city in West Nusa Tenggara.

The only sounds were the wind and the birds in several normally busy areas Denpasar, Antara news agency reported.

Muslims, who conducted their Friday prayers in mosques, were asked to walk instead of using motorized vehicles. Mosques also refrained from outside broadcasts of the call to prayer.

In Kuta, Nusa Dua, Sanur and other tourist centers in Bali, the streets were deserted except for a few food sellers standing idly on street crossings.

The Ngurah Rai International Airports and four seaports across the island were also closed for a day. Bali's only TV station, Bali TV, stayed off the air for the day as well.

The only Balinese Hindus who could leave their homes with a clear conscience were those in medical emergencies, a state official said.

"There is no dispensation except for those people who need to go to hospital," said Bali administration spokesman Anak Agung Gde Bagus Netra.

Bali has a population of 3.2 million.

Outside Bali, Hindu adherents usually celebrate Nyepi by going to the temple to pray.