Indonesia’s main tourism destination, Bali, shut down for a day as the Hindu-dominated island celebrated the day of silence, or Nyepi, on Monday.
The usually bustling island, inhabited by 3.8 million people and thousands of domestic and foreign tourists, was void of any activities as Hindus spent the day in quiet self-reflection to mark the Hindu New Year. Even the capital city of Denpasar, an increasingly busy gateway to the rest of the island, fell deserted, according to the state-run Antara news agency, as its residents complied with their religious prohibitions.
Nyepi, which marks the beginning of the Balinese Hindu Saka New Year, sees devotees perform catur brata penyepian, or refraining of the four taboos, which include working, turning on lights or electricity, venturing out of the house, and indulging in any form of entertainment. The complete silence lasts for 24 hours, starting from 6 a.m.
The custom even prohibits tourists from stepping out of their hotels, leaving the city streets empty except for a handful of guards who were appointed to enforce Nyepi’s religious rules.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono took to his official Twitter account, @SBYudhoyono to convey his Nyepi greetings.
“Happy Nyepi, New Saka Year 1936, may peace always be upon us. Om Swastiastu.” He ended the tweet with his *SBY* signature to indicate that the message came from himself, not a member of his staff.
Some hotels offered their guests the chance to make traditional offerings for the gods, known as canang or sesajen.
“We deliberately designed this activity to fill time while at the same time introduce Balinese cultures and customs to the guests,” Umi Kulsum, marketing communicating officer of the Grand Istana Rama Hotel, told Antara.
Although Balinese Hindus make up only a small minority of Indonesia’s nearly 250 million population, the vast majority of whom are Muslims, Nyepi is a public holiday across the archipelago.
However, only Bali halts all of its activities for the occasion.
Approximately 84.5 percent of the island’s people practice a local form of Hinduism, while 12 percent of the population is Muslim.
The Transportation Ministry reported that Ngurah Rai International Airport would not operate during Nyepi.
“Ngurah Rai will be closed down today from 6. a.m. central Indonesian time until the next day,” ministry spokesman Bambang Ervan told Tempo.co on Monday.
Ngurah Rai airport has sent out a notice to all the airlines serving it that flights on March 31 were not advisable. An estimated 400 international and domestic flights to from Ngurah Rai were affected because of the holiday. The Jakarta Globe