The night before Nyepi, Balinese New Year, is one of the most special nights in Bali and if you have been here last week, there is no way you missed it! On this evening we have witnessed Ngrupuk-Ngrupukan, also known as the Ogoh-Ogoh parade.
First starting off with a little bit of background information;
Nyepi is a day for people to self-reflect and contemplate their previous year in total silence. But on the day before Nyepi, the Balinese make as much noise as possible. In the day time we have the Tawur Kesanga ceremony. This ceremony is considered one of the highest offerings 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. It is meant as a gesture to keep demons satiated so that they won’t disturb people during Nyepi day.
Some Balinese even believe that if they make enough noise with this ceremony and with the Ngrupuk parade later that night, that demons and bad spirits will leave Bali alone for the whole new year starting at Nyepi.
That evening even more noise is made by villages all around Bali. The evening before Nyepi day, the Balinese hold the Ngrupuk Parade, where they carry large statues – known as Ogoh Ogoh – through Bali’s streets. These are giant monster dolls made of light materials: Wood, bamboo, paper, and Styrofoam. They are carried on bamboo platforms throughout the parade. They take the shape of mythological, evil creatures and gods to represent negative aspects of living things and criticize society and its latest issues.
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 need to kept away from humans. Many locals from the Banjar community will carry their Ogoh-Ogoh on the convoy, shaking it to make it look like it’s moving and dancing. Of course, different Ogoh-Ogohs have different function, so when made to move they produce different actions.
The parade ends with countless bonfires, when the laboriously designed monsters are burnt ceremonially and fall to ashes at the cemetery. You might ask, ‘why’?! 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 integral part in a cremation ceremony. Others believe that the dolls were first inspired by a ritual from the village of Selat, where they had been a medium to repel the evil spirits. The Balinese believe that bad spirits move into their monster craft works by making noise and playing instruments and can be banished by burning. It is an important act of purification for the locals to herald the new year and Nyepi, the following day.
However, these days many villages keep their Ogoh-Ogoh’s and put them in their community building to show off to the other villages. Actually, the last years the Ogoh-Ogoh parade is not only ceremonial, it has become a competition and tradition between villages to make the biggest, scariest and heaviest Ogoh-Ogoh!