Bali observes Day of Silence for Hindu new year

March 6, 2011 - 0:0

DENPASAR, Indonesia (AFP) – The Indonesian holiday island of Bali shut down for a day of silence to mark the Hindu new year.

Retailers on Saturday closed their shops and many tourists stayed inside their hotels for Nyepi, a day of reflection that is supposed to be free from daily routine, including work and play.
""Kuta area, which is usually crowded and noisy, now is silent,"" Kuta village cultural head Gusti Ketut Sudira said of the popular tourist spot.
""Hotels are not allowed to let their guests go outside their areas,"" he said.
Guards in sarongs with sticks and traditional daggers enforced the public observance among the Hindu-majority Balinese.
The island's international airport and ports were also shut down, with hospitals the only public services functioning close to normally.
Cars and motorcycles were not allowed on the road except in the case of an emergency.
During the evening, lights and lamps will remain off in public areas and houses.
On Friday, locals on the holiday island paraded effigies known as Ogoh-Ogoh, which represent demons, before burning them as a symbol of renewal and purification.
Although Balinese Hindus make up only a small minority of the national population, Nyepi is a public holiday across Muslim-majority Indonesia.