Ogoh-Ogoh: the night before Nyepi

Nyepi is the day for Balinese Hindus to self-reflect and contemplate their previous year in total silence for 24 hours, but the night before Nyepi, Balinese New Year, is one of the most special nights in Bali. On this evening Ngrupuk-Ngrupukan, also known as the Ogoh-Ogoh parade, take place in almost every village.

One day before Nyepi, the Balinese celebrate the Tawur Kesanga ceremony in the daytime. This ceremony is considered among the highest, and extensive offerings are made to appease demons and lesser spirits. On this day, starting at twilight, people carry flame torches, make a lot of noise around the house, and place offerings for demons to keep them satiated so they won’t disturb people during Nyepi Day.

Some Balinese even believe that if they make enough noise with this ceremony and the Ngrupuk parade later that night, demons and evil spirits will leave Bali alone for the whole new year, starting at Nyepi.

In the evening, more noise is made in villages across Bali. The night before Nyepi Day, the Balinese hold the Ngrupuk Parade, where they carry giant statues – known as Ogoh Ogoh – through Bali’s streets. These are huge statues, crafted over months by the youth, are made of light materials: wood, bamboo, paper, and Styrofoam and take the shape of demons and monsters or mythological, evil creatures and gods to represent negative aspects of living things and criticize society and its latest issues. These statues are carried on bamboo platforms throughout the parade, and it is quite a competition amongst the young Balinese, which village made the best and scariest statue this year.

The name Ogoh Ogoh is derived from the Balinese “ogah-ogah”, meaning “to shake”, and it represents the Bhuta-Kala or evil spirits, vices that must be kept away from humans. Many locals from the Banjar community will take turns in carrying their Ogoh-Ogoh during the parade, shaking it to make it look like it’s moving and dancing. The Ngrupuk parade ends with countless bonfires when the giant statues are burned to ashes in a ceremony at the cemetery.

You might ask, ‘why’?! the Balinese burn their a piece of art. Unfortunately, there is no clear evidence. Many argue that Ogoh Ogohs have been used since the age of the ancient Balinese kingdom Dalem Bangkiang, who had been using them as an integral part of a cremation ceremony. Others believe that the statues were first inspired by a ritual from the village of Selat, where they had been a medium to repel evil spirits. The Balinese also believe that bad spirits move into the statue during their craft works, and by making noise and playing instruments, the spirit can be extinct by burning. Thus, the ceremony of burning the statue is an essential act of purification for the locals to herald the new year and Nyepi the following day.

However, these days many villages keep their Ogoh-Ogohs and put them up in their community building to show off to the other villages. Within the last few years, the Ogoh-Ogoh parade is not only ceremonial. It has become a big competition and tradition between villages to make the biggest, scariest and heaviest Ogoh-Ogoh!