The Jakarta Post
Nyepi, the Balinese Day of Silence, felt more special this year as a total solar eclipse unfolded over parts of Indonesia on the same day. The day exhibited a tolerant atmosphere between Balinese Hindus, who observed Nyepi, and Muslims, who performed eclipse prayers.
During Nyepi, Balinese Hindus celebrate the Caka new year through meditation and contemplation and refrain from using electricity, making fire, traveling outside the home or participating in entertainment activities.
The secretary of the Bali chapter of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), Abdul Kadir Makaramah, said the council had called on Muslims to conduct eclipse prayers either in their respective houses or in nearby mosques without the use of loudspeakers.
'It's based on our agreement with all interfaith forums that we respect the Balinese Hindus observing Nyepi,' Abdul said. 'This is part of interfaith tolerance because in Bali, we support each other.'
No cars or motorcycles were seen on the streets. Muslims who went to the mosque all went on foot, while pecalang (traditional guards) patrolled the streets, securing their respective areas.
'We told people not to ride their vehicles to go to the mosque and to respect our Hindu brothers and sisters,' said Badrus Syamsi, a prominent Muslim figure from the Wanasari Muslim village in Denpasar.
IGN Sudiana, the chairman of the Bali chapter of the Indonesian Hindu Religious Council (PHDI), said that he was grateful for a peaceful Nyepi and the support from people of other religions, including Muslim communities, in Bali.
'The PHDI would like to thank everyone from all religions for the tolerance they have shown in Bali. We must maintain the harmony that has existed here for a long time,' said Sudiana.
Many people also decided to spend the Nyepi day in a hotel as many hotels offered Nyepi holiday packages.
A Denpasar resident, Hendro W. Saputra, usually spends Nyepi at home, but he and his family this year decided to stay at a hotel in Legian because of work.
'For me, as a Muslim, Nyepi also serves as time to be closer to God as we have the opportunity to pray the eclipse prayer, to read the Koran, and to be closer to the family,' said Hendra.
Bali turned silent during Nyepi as all of the island's entry gates, including Ngurah Rai International Airport and three major ferry harbors, were closed. At least 387 domestic and international flights from and to the island were postponed. Roads were closed and only clearly marked ambulances transporting sick people and other emergency responders were exempted from the rule. Hospitals and hotels will be allowed to turn on their lights at night.
Nyepi was also celebrated across the archipelago, such as in Banuroja village in Pohuwato, Gorontalo.
In the village, interfaith relations remained harmonious as Hindus and residents of other religions observed Nyepi and the solar eclipse without violence.
'The eclipse means a lot to us, as nature also seems to be in silence,' said I Wayan Adhe, a Hindu community leader in the village. Although there was no announcement that specifically prohibited Muslims from using loudspeakers during the eclipse prayer, Muslim residents turned them off on their own accord to respect their neighbors observing Nyepi.
'We didn't turn on the speakers because we understand that they are our neighbors and they observe Nyepi,' said Ahmad Wahid, Muslim from the village.
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