Bali shuts down for Day of Silence | world | Hindustan Times
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Bali shuts down for Day of Silence

Bali's normally packed beaches were deserted today as the holiday haven shut down for a day of silence to mark the Hindu new year. Public observance among the Hindu-majority Balinese was enforced by guards in sarongs bearing sticks and traditional daggers.

world Updated: Mar 26, 2009 10:02 IST

Bali's normally packed beaches were deserted Thursday as the holiday haven shut down for a day of silence to mark the Hindu new year.

Shops shut their doors and tourists were effectively confined to hotels for Nyepi, a day of reflection that is supposed to be free from work, play and -- for some -- even talking or eating.

Public observance among the Hindu-majority Balinese was enforced by guards in sarongs bearing sticks and traditional daggers.

The island's ports and the international airport were also shut down, with hospitals the only public services functioning close to normal.

Gede Jonantara, a 27-year-old Balinese who drives luggage from the airport to hotels, said the compulsory break to the hassle of daily life was a moment to reflect and prepare for a new year.

"Hinduism is about my heart, my feelings. If there is no Nyepi on Bali, we feel like something is missing," he said.

While the Day of Silence usually follows a more raucous day of parades to end the old year, most of the processions were called off on fears they could degenerate into violence ahead of national elections next month.

Young men from Bali's tight-knit communities usually parade effigies known as Ogoh-Ogoh, which mostly representing demons and are burned as a symbol of renewal and purification.

The parades have been known to degenerate into brawls before and community heads have voiced fears they could be hijacked by parties already involved in intense campaigning for the April 9 poll.

Despite the fact Balinese Hindus make up a small minority of the national population, Nyepi is a public holiday across Indonesia, which is the world's largest Muslim-majority country.