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Ogoh-ogoh

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The night before Nyepi, however, blares out with great fanfare and riotous fun. Visitors who arrive in Bali on this day could be forgiven for mistaking the local people as hedonistic demon worshippers. Nyepi Eve, known as Pengerupukan, is a raucous affair, when giant doll like effigies called ogoh—ogoh are released onto the streets and paraded on the shoulders of youth, jolted and swung to gyrate to the pulsating rhythms of frantic gong music. This is the night the demons come out to play and the night they are also symbolically destroyed.

In the past, almost every banjar (community unit) in South Bali cities and villages made ogoh-ogoh during Pengerupukan (the day before Nyepi) as part of the Butha Yadnya ritual. The traditional ogoh-ogoh consisted of a large statue made of bamboo or wood depicting a bad giant or demons called butha kala. At night time this was carried around the area and then brought close to a cemetery to be burned down. That was symbolic of burning away all the bad powers in preparation for the holy Nyepi day that is also the New Year.


In the early 1980s, I.B. Mantra, the Governor of Bali, was inspired to produce a yearly parade of ogoh-ogoh in and around the cities of all of the eight districts of Bali. This parade, or arak-arakan, of ogoh-ogoh was later banned, because there were often fights and other chaotic conflicts between groups of people carrying their ogoh-ogoh around. Instead, the government now prefers to conduct ogoh ogoh competition festivals, such as one held on the occasion of the anniversary of the incorporation of the City of Denpasar, Kuta, Nusa Dua, Ubud.


Because of the competitive nature of the Balinese people, these competitions triggered more and more creative processes, especially by youth groups, and the forms of ogoh-ogoh are not anymore just butha kala, but can be wrought in any imaginary style. There are ogoh-ogoh in the form of severely scary-looking giants, and some which appear as nude or nearly nude women with syringes and bottles of alcohol in their hands (and bearing a sign that reads: “The Goddess of Lust and Community Disease”). During such a competition, around 50 to 60 ogoh-ogoh will be carried toward the center of town.
 
In Denpasar, this takes place around the Catur Muka (four faces) statue at the alun-alun, the city’s old parade ground. Some people have to carry the ogoh-ogoh, some play gamelan music, some dance, and some even carry pamphlets and signs. Between noontime until late evening, one by one these ogoh-ogoh will be carried around the field. It is not so much the winning or losing of such a competition that is important, but more how to preserve this creative ceremony. This is Bali, after all, where all rituals and celebrations are always artistic and creative.

According to Hindu Dharma priests, and as announced by the Parisadha Hindu Dharma, a governmental organization for the Hindu Dharma religion in Bali, ogoh-ogoh itself is not a religious event. It is rather a creative spinoff of the Pengerupukan ritual in regard to Nyepi.
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