Thursday, March 26, 2009

Balinese day of silence could show the world a thing or two

THE cacophony of Bali's tourist strip vanished yesterday, its hawkers stayed away and gaudy lights were turned off as the island observed the centuries-old tradition of Nyepi, the day of silence that marks the first day of the year in the Hindu Saka calendar.

As cities around the globe prepare to mark Earth Hour, this Balinese Hindu ritual could show the world a thing or two about the benefits of saving energy and taking time out to reflect on life and the universe.

Nyepi lasts 24 hours and is strictly observed. All cars, motorcycles and other forms of transport are banned from the streets. So, too, are people. They must stay in their homes or family compounds.

Pecalang, or village wardens, wearing the traditional chequered Balinese sarong, keep an eye on the roads and laneways and sternly usher home, or even detain, anyone found walking around. Transgressors are fined.

Airport, ports and all shops are closed. Local radio and television ceases and Balinese Hindus are forbidden to turn on electricity, cook or light fires.

They are also urged to fast for 24 hours and adhere to four brata, or restrictions - no fire, no working, no travelling and no leisure activities.

Balinese Hinduism is about creating harmonious relationships between humans and their gods, and between humans and nature.

On the last front, Nyepi plays a role in reducing carbon emissions and energy costs.

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