Bloody, manly, yet undoubtedly peaceful, Perang Pandan is a unique ‘mock battle’ ceremony which could be considered as one of Bali’s most distinctive rituals done annually to please god and men alike.
Annually held around the month of July by the inhabitant of Ngusaba Village, Traditional Village Tenganan Dauh Tukad, Perang Pandan is a mass coming-of-age ritual dedicated to the Hindu god of war and the sky, Indra, which sees friendly duels between all male villagers, who bout each other armed with just a small rattan shield in one hand and a tied packet of thorny ‘pandan’ leaves in the other. The women are also present, looks exotically appealing draped in Balinese traditional costume and make up, but they did not take part in the fighting ceremony.
When the referee gives signals, both duelist will push each other as they try to rub the thorny pandan leaves on the back of their opponent, leaving bloody scars if succeeded. But this festival, strangely, have more ‘fun’ vibrant than violent or gory. You can see from the look of all participants while facing each other, full of smile and respect towards one another.
The area around main arena will usually be packed with villagers, visiting spectators and photographers; cheering and shouting while inside the circle, brave boys and young men take turns in pairs to ‘fight’ each other, inflicting each other’s bodies with lashes from the leaves’ sharp thorns. Bloods are usually spilled, yet surprisingly, each contestant shows no pain. Rattan shields seem to be mere accessories. After the fight, they apologize to their opponent and tending each other wound with turmeric and traditional medicine. There are no real grudges; it’s just a game, a medium to socialize and preserving the long historical tradition of Tenganan village. This festival is open for public, meaning not only the village inhabitants are allowed to take part, but outsider also, by following certain rules. So don’t be surprised if you see some foreigners in the arena as well.
The village of Tenganan can be reached from driving north of Candidasa Main Street. There are lots of five-star resorts around the area if you wish to attend this unique ritual. So are you coming to spectate or participate? Either way, it will be a holiday moment to go down on your memory lane.