Forget about lively parties. The Balinese are forbidden to make noise or leave their houses. Traditionally, they retire to their homes and pretend there is no living soul on the island. I have had the pleasure to witness this tradition and I must say that the experience was extraordinary. 

When I landed at the international airport in Bali on March 30, it was my first-ever visit of Southeast Asia. During my way to the hotel I came across parades of happy, cheerful Balinese people frolicking and rejoicing. The streets were full of statues made of plastic, representing monsters of various colours and poses. Each of them had its number and a tag with its name and history on it.

Carrying my huge piece of luggage, I had to push my way through the crowds of people flocking around me, so that I could get to the hotel. People passing by told me that there was going to be the New Year’s celebration there the next day. Speaking broken English, they tried to explain that I needed to know that it was prohibited to leave the house during the next day. I had mixed feelings about that because I was looking forward to swimming in the sea and exploring the beauty of the island. The idea of staying in a hotel room for a whole day was not appealing to me at all – 8 best activities on Bali

Casting out the Demons

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Statue of demons Ogo Ogo

As soon as I got to the hotel, the receptionist informed me that I needed to buy some food for the next day, if I didn’t want to be hungry. It was not a working day tomorrow, shops would be closed, nobody would walk out, the international airport would be closed as well, and the police would be guarding the streets. Everyone was expected to stay at home in silence, no matter what their religion was.

It took me by surprise because it would have never crossed my mind that someone can celebrate the New Year in such a way. So, I put my backpack in the room and went shopping for groceries. It was almost evening and I had no idea where the nearest grocery shop could be. At the same time, I hoped I would meet someone who can speak English decently so that they could explain me such an odd tradition. When I was pushing my way through the streets, I found out that the cheerful celebration moved to the beach.

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Personal encounters with demons

Eva in Bali- big temple

In the temple Besakih

The Balinese carried away the monsters in handbarrows to the seaside, where, while dancing and singing, they set all the statues on fire. I watched the flames of height of several meters whipping high into the air. The ritual was accompanied by the singing and dancing of men and women in beautiful clothes. The group of young Australians standing nearby told me that the Hindu New Year’s celebration takes a form of a ritual of casting out the demons, and, as the most important event of the year, it is kept in Bali only.

eva_profilThe locals build the statues of demons called Ogo-Ogo, which are really elaborate and make scary noises. The streets are full of parades. Men and women put on national costumes, and dance and make noise. In the evening, the demons are carried to the beach where they are ritually set on fire. Then, their ashes are scattered into the sea. To prevent the demons’ return to the island, people lock themselves in their homes. The streets become quiet, and all the lamps must be out at night. The demons are wandering the streets, the whole city, and when they find out the island is deserted and lonely, they leave.

Night Full of Silence

Well, that’s something completely different when compared to Europe. For a while, I was silently looking into the bonfire before I decided to continue looking for a shop. When I came back to the hotel all exhausted, the receptionist already patched cardboards on my windows, so that I could turn on a lamp at least. When the midnight came, all lights went out and the city immersed in dead silence. For a long time, I was sitting on the balcony in the dark, staring at the unbelievably clear sky, listening to sounds of the night. For the whole time, I was holding myself back from going out to wander through the city of the dead. What if I would have met a demon and summoned a disaster?