Indonesia’s tourism island Bali has shut down internet services, turned away flights and shuttered all shops for a “Day of Silence” that marks New Year on the predominantly Hindu island.
Residents of the Hindu-dominated island on Saturday stopped regular activities for a day of meditation, fasting and introspection, an annual rite that includes elaborate beachside ceremonies and demon-like effigies.
Known locally as Nyepi, the holiday began at 6am (22:00 GMT on Friday), emptying streets and beaches for 24 hours, except for special patrols and emergencies to ensure silence is observed.
This year, for the first time, phone companies have agreed to switch off the mobile internet on the island, home to more than four million people.
Ngurah Rai international airport remains shuttered for 24 hours, starting from 6am local time on Saturday, affecting about 480 flights, including nearly 240 international flights.
Shops and tourist attractions were closed for the day although public services including hospitals were to remain open.
Al Jazeera’s Step Vaessen, reporting from Bali, said some people were not happy with the government imposition of the tradition in a mandatory manner.
“Hospitals are open, but there is no transportation. So people are worried about how to get to the hospital in case there is an emergency,” Vaessen said.
“Some people think cutting the internet is going too far. They believe the government is intervening too much into the public’s religious practices,” she added.
“Today, if you go outside in Bali, you face sanctions. Penalties change from village to village.”
In addition to internet services being suspended, television and radio broadcasts ceased for the day of reflection, seen as the most sacred in Balinese Hinduism.
Non-Hindus, including tourists who flock to the tropical island, are asked to stay in their homes or hotels.
“This is about religion; when it is forced on us it is not a good sign. It should be up to us how we want to do our ‘Nyepi’. It’s like Muslim fasting, and banning restaurants from opening,” Ngurah Termana, a Hindu in Bali, told Al Jazeera.
Wayan Gendo Suardana, another Hindu, said: “I don’t understand why they need to cut off the internet; just because people like to take selfies? That’s a lame reason. If they wanted to make it like the old days, they should take out the electricity and gas, too.”
Indonesia is a Muslim-majority country but more than 80 percent of Bali’s population identify as Hindu, who practise a local version of the religion.