© Courtesy of Instagram account: @_asaraswati
The island of Bali holds within its embrace a kaleidoscope of cultural antiquities that amaze those who arrive on its shores seeking sun, beach and fun.
In the east of the island is Tenganan Pegringsingan, a village, as legend would have it, which had been created by Lord Indra to be a world within worlds, a place uncontaminated by the ills of humanity, a place of spiritual purity.
The inhabitants of this unique village are considered to be the original Balinese and hence called Bali Aga. It is believed they are indigenous to the island, that is, prior to the arrival of the Hindus who arrived from Java after the fall of the Majapahit Empire circa 15th century CE.
Not everyone can live in this village. Only those born in the village can stay. And those who marry a person from outside the village have to leave.
Geringsing, double ikat, is a fabric woven in Tenganan, and is used in traditional attire and rituals. According to some experts, the Geringsing can be traced to the Patola, a double ikat fabric woven in the Indian State of Gujarat. The villagers believe that the fabric has supernatural powers and can prevent the wearer from any illness, hence the name Gerin (disease) and sing (no). Hence, it is used in rite of passage ceremonies – coming of age and tooth filing, among others.
Every year the sacred ritual to Lord Indra, God of War, is performed. It is known as Mekare-kare. Interestingly, the villagers worship Lord Indra and not the Hindu Trinity of Siwa, Brahma and Wisnu.
Each bare-chested opponent holds a bunch of Pandan leaves (with thorns) in one hand and a rattan shield in the other. He enters the ‘fight space’ and embraces his opponents – and begins rubbing and whipping his opponent’s back, drawing blood. Of course, his opponent responds similarly. The encounter lasts a mere one minute. Then the fighters help one other remove the thorns from their wounds. There is no animosity between the contestants. The ritual of drawing blood in this combat is to honour the God of War, Lord Indra.
The backdrop of this gladiator style performance, which lasts two days, is the array of village girls, virgins, dressed in their colourful Geringsing with intricately designed golden headgears. Beside them are the young boys in fabulous facial make-up.
The imagery is one out of a fantasy book ─ the shouts of the combatants, the gamelan, the cries of the crowd and excited tourists almost falling over one another to capture the moment for posterity with their cameras. Yes, you guessed it. Some things have changed since the 15th century. Tourists are allowed to visit the village.
There is much to be discovered in Tenganan Pegringsingan ─ the weavers, their beautiful fabrics and daily life.
You can visit this fascinating ancient Balinese village on any day in comfort and style by a classical Lan Rover Defender operated by WakaLandCruise. On this exclusive day trip, Indonesian lunch will be served in Sidemen village at the heritage Villa Iseh by WHM with scenic views of the sacred Mount Agung.