Balinese New Years celebrations (Nyepi) take place this week. We drove our spectacular pink scooter through the villages around Ubud today, photographing "Ogah Ogah." These bamboo and papier mache figures will be burnt tomorrow evening after a parade to village crossroads and cemeteries (the places evil spirits are most likely to be found) around the island in an effort to vanquish the spirits from Bali for the coming year.
Each village builds an Ogah Ogah from donations. For the last week, young men have been designing and building them beneath roadside bamboo scaffolding, saving the head for last, lest their most creative ideas get stolen by neighboring villages. They are more than happy to have their creations, which represent evil spirits or Hindu gods kicking some evil ass, photographed.
There's some debate among local expats whether there is an Ogah Ogah competition. Some argue that the peace loving, compassionate and spiritually present Balinese would never compete over who had the coolest Ogah Ogah. Skeptical of this theory, we found the competitive urge thriving in the countryside when we showed building teams photos of other villages' work or told them their Ogah Ogah was the best one we'd seen yet.
Monday morning, Nyepi starts and the Island literally shuts down until sunup Tuesday. No one leaves their homes (including tourists), no one talks, cooks, works, uses electricity or travels (imagine what a burden this will be for us). Even the international airport is shut for the day. Apparently this is to persuade the demons that the island is uninhabited, so they'll go elsewhere. With motor-scooters and buses shut off, the silence is reported to be impressive. People meditate or spend the day in quiet reflection, then on Wednesday, they'll go visit all the people they've offended in the last year and apologize.
We've often said that while we appreciate the institutionalized myths around which people structure their lives, we certainly don't participate in them even if they are colorful and foreign, so don't go holding your breath for any Carpetblog Nyepi apologies. As our list of grievances is long, however, we'll certainly accept some apologies.
These are just a few of our Ogah Ogah photos. Check out more on our Demotix page.