The Balinese culture is rich with tradition and spiritual practices that shape the lives and experiences of all those living and visiting the beautiful ‘island of the gods.’ Here we take a look at Nyepi Laut and Ngaben.
Nyepi Laut like Nyepi, is a day of silence. While Nyepi is a day of silence, fasting and meditation for the Balinese people, Nyepi Laut is instead a day of silence for the ocean and islands. The ocean and water around Bali and the islands are always busy with boats, people swimming and enjoying the beaches, playing water sports, fishing, snorkelling and diving, with pontoons packed with people and boats making their way to the islands to dive and explore the islands. But on the day of Nyepi Laut, the water is still and quiet, as no boat, paddleboard, person or anything else that doesn’t naturally exist in the ocean, is allowed into the water that day. This year Nusa Lembongan, Nusa Ceningan and Nusa Penida will celebrate Nyepi Laut on the 14th of October. The Balinese believe that this day of silence is a show of respect to Dewa Baruna, believed to be the ruler of the oceans, and that by observing the day of silence, they maintain balance between the people and their environment. They believe that if people break the day of silence, and enter the water, they will meet with disaster and tragedy.
It is a day of reverence and gratitude, and an opportunity to celebrate the ocean and islands and all that they provide, while staying out of the water. It’s important to the Balinese that visitors from overseas who may not understand the practice, also stay out of the water, so Pecalang will be walking along the beach to ensure everyone is aware of the significance of the day.
Ngaben is a cremation ritual performed in the Hindu culture. It is a peaceful ceremony and a celebration of the deceased’s life, where mourners come dressed in bright colours, and the coffin is decorated in shiny objects and brightly coloured flowers and fabric.
It is said that the cremation releases the soul of the deceased and allows them to enter the higher realm, where the spirit or soul waits to be reborn, or is released from the cycles of rebirth. Most Balinese prefer to perform Ngaben immediately after the death of the loved one, however as it can be expensive, the bodies of their loved ones can be preserved and buried until funds can be raised by several families or the community, to hold a collective Ngaben.
Once enough money has been saved, the families choose a significant date in the Hindu calendar and let their family and friends know when the collective Ngaben will be held. Next, a decorative coffin is built and carried through the village to let everyone know that Ngaben is about to start. The deceased is removed from the burial site, washed, dressed in traditional Balinese clothing, and prepared for the cremation. Family and friends visit and pay their last respects, saying good-bye to their loved one, before they accompany them to the cremation grounds, where they are farewelled with beautiful gamelan music and singing.
The Hindu culture is one of peace and we encourage all visitors to learn about the ceremonies; and if you are invited to join in, make sure you find out what you should wear and what the customs are for that ceremony, location or special occasion.
Written by Clare Srdarov and Suzanne Srdarov, The Travellist for The Voice of Sanur.