Come Monday, demons hiding under beds scaring little children, rattling behind kitchen pots and breaking bathroom mirrors will have been banished from Bali.
Families will have banged on kitchen utensils, lit fires and led these bogeymen away and out the front gate, sending them home to the rivers, forests and skies that spawned them.
Other demons will have been called from streets and crossroads, shadows and graveyards by the great ogoh-ogoh effigies that will dance through villages across the island on the eve of Nyepi, the Balinese Hindu Day of Silence.
Through dance, these man-made monsters woo demons from hidey-holes, swallowing them and eventually spewing them forth to be burnt in graveyards and driven from the island forever.
“On the eve of Nyepi we make a party with the ogoh-ogoh and our friends. Everyone comes home to the village and it’s a happy and peaceful time,” Wayan Armanendi of Tengkulak village in Gianyar says.
“We have no fear of the demons because the ogoh can eradicate them from the streets and the house demons we chase away back to their homes. So the demons are happy to go home too as our places are not their homes,” according to the 17-year-old tourism student.
On the Day of Silence, no planes will cross Bali’s airspace, airports will be shuttered and closed, television stations will be switched off and harbors will close, halting the constant arrival of ferries with passengers and vehicles as they make their way southeast across the archipelago.
Streets will be deserted — apart from dog packs enjoying traffic-free roads. People will stay in their homes, taking a break from the world. It is a day when background noise halts and only the chirping of birds, the lowing of cattle or the scurry of mice in the rice fields can be heard.
Only emergency services will remain active.
“We can’t go out, we can’t work, we can’t cook and we have no fires. I prepare the food before Nyepi,” Komang Martini, a 36-year-old mother who works part-time as a housekeeper, says.
“I like Nyepi, because it is our tradition — but also because it gives me time to think about life, to calm my thinking and to be with family,” Komang adds. “I am looking forward to the break.”
The run-up to Nyepi begins months before, when young men in villages plan the designs of the ogoh-ogoh effigies they will band together to create.
Across towns throughout Bali, people can be seen slowly crafting the monsters from items such as foam, chicken wire, papier-mâché and other found or purchased objects.
In the village of Petulu, on the outskirts of Ubud, 22-year-old Putu Hendra is adding the final touches to his community’s ogoh-ogoh effigy of Calon Arang, the woman cursed to be a monster in the Ramayana epic.
“Here we call this ogoh ‘Sisian’,” says Hendra. “So far we have spent more than US$1300 on materials to build her. On the eve of Nyepi, which we call pengerupukan, we will carry her through the village.”
“She will call all the demons from every house and from the street, then we will burn her and the demons in the graveyard,” says Hendra of the excitement that will cease just before midnight on March 30.
Just as the Day of Silence offers the people of Bali a time to rest and reflect, Hendra says that Nyepi gives the natural world a moment to recuperate from the inroads made by man. “We believe Nyepi gives nature a rest, that this day helps the environment.”
A few kilometers away in Tengkulak Kaja, Made Ada agrees that Nyepi is a valuable day for the environment. He and members of his community have also been busy crafting an ogoh.
“We are making the Bangkal, which represents a wild boar. The boar protects the natural world. We believe when people have seen this boar and then enter the forests, they will be scared and leave nature untouched,” says the 27-year-old.
He’s also pleased that foreigners staying in Bali for Nyepi will honor the day, which marks the start of the Balinese year Saka 1936.
“Visitors to Bali pay respect to our traditions and adjust to this day. We feel our beliefs are honored by that,” says Ada.