Anton Muhajir, Contributor, Karangasem | Mon, 06/28/2010 10:00 AM | Bali
Maurizio Rosenberg Colorni was trapped in a fierce battle, but showed no fear in facing his enemy in the centuries-old ritual of pandanus battle, held during a special ceremony in the Tenganan Indigenous community in Karangasem, East Bali, recently.
Despite a wound in his neck and back, Colorni was brave enough to answer a local boy’s challenge to finish the duel.
Armed with a long and thorny pandanus leaf in his right hand and a rattan shield, the Italian-born writer headed into the middle of the battle arena (bale Temu Tengah) to face his opponent.
Like Roman gladiators the two opponents fought a fierce and bloody battle, hitting each other using pandanus leaves.
Spectators watched eagerly, clapped and shouted out to support their heroes. After a minute the two men embraced each other affectionately.
“This was my fourth battle. I have always enjoyed it,” said Colorni, who has resided in Sanur for four years.
Pandanus battles are one of the most important ceremonies for the Tenganan ethnic community, as a means to honoring to the God Indra, the Hindu god of warfare.
Tenganan people are known as the Bali Aga, the indigenous Balinese, who are believed to have lived in Bali since long before the second waves of immigrants arrived. The Bali Aga people strictly safeguard their centuries-old rituals and traditions such that they can remain unaffected by the hustle bustle of present-day Bali.
I Nyoman Sadra, a former Tengan village chief, said the blood spilled during the ritual battle symbolizes the people’s gratitude toward Indra and to their respected ancestors.
Nowadays, however, pandanus battles have become a tourist attraction as well.
Another foreigner, Mat Thame, was very enthusiastic about taking part in a battle. Clad in traditional kamen (long shirt) and a headdress, Thame was ready to fight.
After the battle, Thame’s back was covered in scratches.
”It is not painful but very hot, said Thame, an Australian currently working to develop sanitation facilities in the village.
Taking part in this ritual battle was a way Thame to get to know the villagers, he said.
“They wanted to sacrifice for their ancestors and I really honoured it,” he said.
Colorni said the ritual reflected aggressiveness but at the same time a close friendship within members of the community.
Soon after the battle, all those present, including Thames and Colorni, walked together to the village community hall to take part in a communal dining ceremony (megibung).
Published at The Jakarta Post.