The Ngrupuk Festival
The island of Bali is nestled in the largest Islamic state in the world, Indonesia. However, it differs from the rest of the country in that approximately 92% of the Balinese population are Hindu. Ceremonial life in Bali revolves around ritual and artistic creation.
One of the most important fixtures on the Balinese calendar is Nyepi, the day of silence. On the eve of Nyepi, the Balinese streets are transformed into a visual spectacle with the Ngrupuk parade. Balinese belief works within a dichotomy of positive and negative forces. The Ngrupuk parade is performed to ward off negative influences and create an equilibrium between the positive and negative forces in life.
Balinese Hindus make Ogoh-Ogohs, beautifully constructed statues made from bamboo and paper-mache. The Ogoh-Ogoh embody negative energy, a manifestation of evil and darkness. The main purpose of making the Ogoh-Ogoh is to purify our environment of any spiritual pollutants. They are paraded on a convoy, taunted and reviled, then finally burnt in a symbolic act of purification. My experience of the Ngrupuk ritual was in a small fishing village in the North East of Bali, called Tulamben.
Lying in the shadow of the menacing volcano Mt Agung, Tulamben is a popular scuba diving location. It benefits from the rich waters of the Bali Sea, boasting a world famous wreck in the USAT Liberty and is abound with marine life. The area surrounding Tulamben offers incredible natural beauty and breathtaking sights.
Life in Tulamben revolves around scuba diving with most locals involved in the industry in some respect, working within a co-operative. Hinduism and ceremonial life play a big role in the village. On the eve of Nyepi, on a hot, humid day in Tulamben, the Ogoh-Ogoh were led through the village on bamboo stilts in a procession of the young and old. At the front of the procession, children carrying wooden torches led the way through the village.
Surrounding the Ogoh-Ogoh, song and dance created a frenzied ritualistic display. The beating of drums and various percussion instruments gave the parade a unique soundtrack. The animation and passion involved in this parade belied its modest size and scale.
Throughout Bali such parades can involve thousands of people and huge collections of Ogoh-Ogoh statues. Tulamben's parade, whilst modest, was undoubtedly impressive. The energy on display during the parade was captivating. Although the festival has a significant spiritual importance for the locals it was far from exclusive, the smattering of tourists were welcomed and encouraged to be part of proceedings.
Me and a few friends from our dive centre, ''Dive Concepts’’, followed the procession and our initial trepidation of being uninvited voyeurs was soon forgotten. We got lost in the crowd, dodging children hurling water missiles and swinging wooden torches on fire.
The atmosphere was frantic, at one point a Westerner handing out sweets was mobbed by a group of children like a swarm of bees, leaving her disorientated and sweet-free in seconds. Moments later, one child accidentally set another alight with his torch.
Thankfully, those around him weren't too distracted by their sugary bounty and soon extinguished the flames. These events typified this adrenaline-fuelled occasion. Madness and exuberance in equal measure.
My lasting memory of the Ngrupuk festival was the positivity and happiness of the people there. I remained in Tulamben for a few months after the event and became good friends with some of the locals. I can attest to the stereotype that the Balinese emanate positivity.
Life here moves at a contented snail's pace. The Balinese ethos of ''a need to protect oneself and one's health by surrounding oneself with happiness and harmony'', may sound like an idealistic, rose-tinted view on life, but hey, personally, I've always suited pink Aviators.
Spot me on the left amongst the madness..
I wasn't lying about the Aviators.
Written and Photographed by: Jake Chard