Bali – The Island of the Gods

The blending of Hinduism and earlier animistic practices formed a unique culture on this little island amidst the Indonesian archipelago. The Balinese see themselves as healers of the planet and it is indeed surprising, how many successful healers you can find there. Nobody knows why Bali is the only island in the whole area, where the ancient traditions were not destroyed by the Islamic conquerors. The Balinese are still practicing their ancient style of music, dance, medicine and most of all their Hindu and shamanic rituals. Temples are everywhere and everything is regarded as sacred. There are shrines in almost all rooms of a house and at least one big shrine for the whole house.

There are two calendars with different time spans in use, so they have two new year days, which fall on different dates of the Western calendar every year. One is Nyepi day, when all demons are burnt and banned from the island and afterwards twenty four hours of silence are strictly kept all over the island. No fire, no cooking, no driving, no electric lights and everybody has to stay inside their houses. Even in the big cities there is no noise besides the barking of the dogs and the crowing of the roosters. Pictures 16 to 23 are from Nyepi Day 2002 in Ubud (center of traditional arts and dance in Bali). The demons – called Ogoh-Ogoh in Bali – are prepared a few days in advance. Each quarter has its own team. They built the Ogoh-Ogohs, parade them through the streets and burn the effigies in a final ceremony. Afterwards the demons are supposedly gone from the island. But, because some of the demons might reassemble in the skies and look for their old home Bali, the silence has to be kept strictly. Otherwise the demons might spot their former home and return.