December 1, 2022

Things You Should Know about the Majestic Ogoh-ogoh from Bali

Writer: Athirah Jihan K

When you hear the word ‘Bali’, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? Is it the beautiful beaches it has? I mean… I would agree with you since Bali has the charm of its natural beauty that is so eye-pleasing. Or is it the food? Sate lilit? Ayam betutu? Milk pie? Ugh… even my mouth is watering just thinking about it.

Anyways, apart from the things I’ve mentioned above, Bali also has its own unique culture and art. Perhaps, you know about the well-known Kecak dance which is usually shown for free in Uluwatu to be watched by tourists who come to Bali. But, we’re not going to talk about that here (because Kecak dance has received enough spotlight). In fact, we’re going to explore another Balinese art, such as Ogoh-ogoh! And psst… I’m going to tell you several things (or facts, you can say that) about it.

Photo source: Pinterest

1. Ogoh-ogoh means something that is shaken

There is nothing more important in learning something new other than knowing the origin or the history of it, right? According to the website of the Buleleng Regency Government, Ogoh-ogoh comes from the word ‘ogah-ogah’ which is a Balinese word, and it means something to be shaken. Does this ring you a bell? Yes! I think it’s quite similar to Ondel-ondel from Jakarta. 

2. It is the embodiment of Bhuta Kala

Because the majority of the Balinese population is Hindu, Ogoh-ogoh itself is a picture of Bhuta Kala‘s personality. Do you know what and who Bhuta Kala is? In Hindu Dharma teachings, Bhuta Kala represents the immeasurable and undeniable power. The word ‘Bhu’ means universe and ‘Kala’ means time. Usually, a large and scary giant figure is a picture of bhuta kala itself in Ogoh-ogoh. Scary enough? 

3. It has nothing to do with Nyepi Day

Most of you must have known this Ogoh-ogoh art because of the Nyepi Day celebration. Well, surprise, surprise! It turns out that Ogoh-ogoh has no direct relationship with Nyepi Day! It wasn’t until the year of 1983, when the President of Indonesia decided that Nyepi Day became a national holiday, and that Ogoh-ogoh became part of the celebrations leading up to Nyepi. Hence, the use of Ogoh-ogoh is only to complete the excitement of Nyepi Day to make it more festive.

4. Ogoh-ogoh Festival as a place for creativity

A few days before Nyepi Day, the Hindu community performs several stages of ritual. One of them is the tradition of the Ogoh-ogoh parade which is now a lively annual festival and a tourist attraction. You can go have a look at the Ogoh-ogoh parade in 2022 a few months ago (after two years of being discontinued due to Covid-19). There are lots of huge and majestic Ogoh-ogoh statues, some of which resemble the shape of creatures that live in Mayapada, Heaven and Hell, such as dragons, pigs, and elephants. In fact, as it develops, there are also Ogoh-ogoh that resemble famous people, such as state leaders, artists, or religious figures.

Here comes the fun part…

Usually, each community will make Ogoh-ogoh belonging to their respective areas or regions. Some youths in certain areas generally want their Ogoh-ogoh to be more superior to other regions. That’s why, aside from being part of traditional rituals, the process of making Ogoh-ogoh is also a place to express the creativity of local young people.

Quoted from article Redaksi9, in this regard, in 2022 the Provincial Government of Bali through the Bali Provincial Culture Service will again hold the Ogoh-ogoh competition at the District and Regency/City levels in Bali. The competition is also an appreciation for the creativity of Pasikian Yowana in Traditional Villages throughout Bali in dedicating their religious spirit through the creation of Ogoh-ogoh statues. 264 participants from 56 sub-districts in Bali take part in the competition. The prizes won by the winners are also unmitigated! The winners get a nominal amount of money that is quite large and also a certificate of appreciation.

Photo source: Pinterest/@tresna wicaksana and Pinterest/@Sue Cotton

5. The difficulty process of making Ogoh-ogoh

Have you seen some of the statues made? With such large size and majestic shape, how long do you think the manufacturing process took? Long enough, I reckon.

The statues were once made of a bamboo frame covered with paper. But over time, people are getting more creative and they use Styrofoam for the base material because it can produces a smoother three-dimensional shape. Even some of the statues are made functional which can make them move!

The making of Ogoh-ogoh can vary, it can take from just a week to months! It all depends on the size, type of material, the number of human resources working on it, and the complexity of the design itself.

Would you want to make one?

6. The parade has its own show time

Well, you already know that the Ogoh-ogoh parade is held the day before Nyepi Day. But do you know that it can only be done at certain times in the day? 

Usually, the locals (young people to adults) start walking around the village carrying torches from the afternoon or evening, and the event will last long until late in the evening. People say that this is a special time, and it has an eerie moment because they believe that Bhuta Kala or scary creatures are roaming around at this time. 

Before starting the parade, the participants do several things, namely they perform the ritual of drinking the traditional Balinese wine (re: arak Bali). After that, they go around the village and bring the Ogoh-ogoh with the accompaniment of a typical Balinese gamelan rhythm, namely the bleganjur patung to a place called sema (a place where Hindus are buried before being burned and during the cremation of corpses). Then, the Ogoh-ogoh that had been paraded around the village were burned there.

Why must there be a burning process at the end? That, I will explain in the next point. So, keep on reading!

7. Ogoh-ogoh could expel the negative elements of Bhuta Kala

You guys already know that at crucial times, Bhuta Kala are roaming around from evening to night. 

Hence, this ogoh-ogoh statues have a purpose which is to eliminate the negative elements of Bhuta Kala itself. Because people say that Bhuta Kala in Ogoh-ogoh is a picture of human vices. Some of the Hindu Dharma scholars concluded that Ogoh-ogoh symbolizes human awareness of the power of the universe. The power itself is divided into two, namely the strength of the bhuana agung and the strength of the bhuana alit.

The power of bhuana agung is the strength of the universe, while the strength of bhuana alit is the strength in humans. Both of the power can either destroy the world, or make the world more wonderful.

For that reason, these Ogoh-ogoh statues must be immediately destroyed by burning, and must not be left sitting on their own, as a meaning to get rid of all negative traits that exist in humans. So that later humans can become a better person for the world. And this is can also be a representation in an effort to eliminate the element of Bhuta Kala that can disturb human peace and tranquility.

To live surrounded by many tribes and cultures is such a blessing, isn’t it?

As an Indonesian, of course we must be proud of the rich culture that we have. Because with so many cultures, we also have many works of art—magnificent art. And one of them is Ogoh-ogoh.

But not only Ogoh-ogoh, there are many other art that exists on the island of Bali or also known as the island of the Gods. So, how is it? Would you like to join in on the Nyepi celebration next year? What are you waiting for? Go book a ticket and go to Bali with your close friends or even your family!

Anyways, before we part ways, I think it would be better if I give some examples of greetings that you can use for your relatives or friends who celebrate Nyepi. Some of these sayings are in Balinese, and quoted from the IDN Times Bali website. So you can learn at the same time as well!

  • Rahajeng Rahina Nyepi Warsa Anyar Saka 1944. Ngiring margiang rahina puniki antuk kasunian lan katreptian jagat.

English translation: Happy Nyepi Day Saka New Year 1944. Let’s celebrate this holy day in silence and peace.

  • Majeng ring para semeton tiange, ngiring iraga suciang pikayun, nyanggra Rahina Nyepi sangkaning manah tulus suci nirmala.

English translation: to all my brothers and sisters, let’s purify our minds, welcome Nyepi Day with all our hearts.

  • Rahina Nyepi pinaka rahina sane suci, dumogi iraga sareng sami pageh nglaksanayang Catur Brata Nyepi.

English Translation: Nyepi Day is a holy holiday, may we all be firm in carrying out Catur Brata Penyepian.

  • Ngiring mulat sarira, laksanayang Catur Brata penyepian. Dumogi labda karya sidaning don.

English Translation: Let’s introspect ourselves, carry out Catur Brata Penyepian. Hope everything goes well.

  • Rahajeng nyanggra Warsa Anyar Saka 1944, dumogi shanti lan jagadhita.

English Translation: Happy Saka New Year 1944, may you be in peace and prosperity.

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