Meet the Creatures and Creators Behind Bali’s Parade for Banishing Evil Spirits


On the eve of March 11, the streets of the traditional village of Mengwi, Bali, flooded with monsters. The giant figures loomed over villagers’ heads, with grotesque smiles, protruding fangs, and extra arms and eyes. They danced in the night, each one brought to life by dozens of locals who moved as one, lifting, spinning, and shaking the monstrous creations.

The spectacle, known as the Ngrupuk parade, is one of several rituals meant to banish evil ahead of Nyepi and the Balinese New Year. While Nyepi is a day of mandatory rest and meditation for Balinese Hindus, the night before is quite the opposite.

The monstrous figures known as ogoh-ogoh—meaning to shake—represent Bhuta-Kala, evil spirits that need banishing, according to Balinese Hindu tradition. The figures, some as tall as a two-story building, are carried boisterously through town on bamboo platforms before their fiery demise.

Ogoh-ogohs sometimes depict a scene rather than a single character; here, Krishna bursts from the chest of the power-seeking demon Aghasura, killing him.
Ogoh-ogohs sometimes depict a scene rather than a single character; here, Krishna bursts from the chest of the power-seeking demon Aghasura, killing him.

Ngrupuk is a rather new Nyepi ceremony; ogoh-ogohs first appeared in Bali’s capital city Denpasar in the early 1980s. Since then, the annual parade has spread to surrounding villages. Local youth organizations build and carry the demonic effigies, and most crafters are teenagers and young men. Young children sometimes give creating a monster their best shot, while older master craftsmen are typically responsible for the most ornate ogoh-ogoh.

The monsters are traditionally burned at the end of the ceremony as an act of purification, but local painter and ogoh-ogoh collector I Ketut Nuada adds a few monsters each year to his growing collection-turned-museum.

Nuada once made ogoh-ogoh, but now leaves it to younger crafters and focuses instead on rounding up a few of his favorites after each parade. He collects whatever he can afford from among the effigies that survive a night of violent shaking. Over the last 12 years, Nuada has filled every inch of a warehouse in Mengwi with rescued and retired demons, some 31 in total.

“Every year there are more… and more technology,” says Nuada, speaking through a translator. The figures are traditionally made from paper, bamboo, and found materials, and brought to life through vigorous shaking. But in recent years, crafters have been experimenting with using electronics to light the monsters’ eyes, turn their heads, or raise their wings.

I Ketut Nuada has collected 31 ogoh-ogoh over the past 12 years, filling a warehouse.
I Ketut Nuada has collected 31 ogoh-ogoh over the past 12 years, filling a warehouse.

Anywhere from one to 10 people craft a single ogoh-ogoh between January and March. It takes dozens more to bring the demons to life. Before the event, disciples from the village temple will bless the ogoh-ogoh in a ritual where ceremonial offerings, called banten, are also presented.

Then the heavy lifting begins. Each figure is carried—along with lights and generators—by up to 40 locals on a raft-like bamboo platform. Dozens more walk ahead of the ogoh-ogoh carrying torches, or stand on the route performing traditional music. Everyone else gathers to take in the spectacle.

While many ogoh-ogoh will end their night in flames, some are stored away to be refurbished and sold for the following year, or—if they’re lucky—end up in Nuada’s collection. Photographer Matjaž Tančič captured the passionate creators, performers, and collectors who came together for Mengwi’s 2024 Ngrupuk event.

Nuada's favorite ogoh-ogoh in his collection is Siwa Nandini, or Shiva's bull, the loyal steed of the Hindu god (left); Narasimha is the half-man, half-lion avatar of Vishnu (right).
Nuada’s favorite ogoh-ogoh in his collection is Siwa Nandini, or Shiva’s bull, the loyal steed of the Hindu god (left); Narasimha is the half-man, half-lion avatar of Vishnu (right).
Ogoh-ogohs, which only became popular in the 1980s, are carried on bamboo platforms and can be as tall as a two-story building.
Ogoh-ogohs, which only became popular in the 1980s, are carried on bamboo platforms and can be as tall as a two-story building.
Wandana Munggu is one of the ogoh-ogoh master craftsmen.
Wandana Munggu is one of the ogoh-ogoh master craftsmen.
Most ogoh-ogoh creations begin with a papier-mache base.
Most ogoh-ogoh creations begin with a papier-mache base.
Offerings known as <em>banten</em> are presented to the ogoh-ogoh before the parade begins.
Offerings known as banten are presented to the ogoh-ogoh before the parade begins.
While bigger villages host their parades at night, Dauh Yeh Cani, a tiny community 15 minutes from Mengwi, had their event in the early afternoon.
While bigger villages host their parades at night, Dauh Yeh Cani, a tiny community 15 minutes from Mengwi, had their event in the early afternoon.
The ogoh-ogoh effigies become more complex and detailed each year (left); children sometimes build their own small versions or buy them from local vendors (right).
The ogoh-ogoh effigies become more complex and detailed each year (left); children sometimes build their own small versions or buy them from local vendors (right).
Ogoh-ogoh crafters have been experimenting with incorporating electronics into their designs, creating eyes that light up, heads that turn, and limbs that move.
Ogoh-ogoh crafters have been experimenting with incorporating electronics into their designs, creating eyes that light up, heads that turn, and limbs that move.
Everyone in Mengwi village, locals and tourists alike, gathered to participate in or watch the parade.
Everyone in Mengwi village, locals and tourists alike, gathered to participate in or watch the parade.





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