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Destination: Travel Back in Time Through the Gates of Tenganan

Destination: Travel Back in Time Through the Gates of Tenganan

The Balinese culture has indeed always been a main factor that has kept the tourism on the island flowing, improving and growing vastly every year. The island’s culture is so rich and colorful, that even being resident on the island for years might still not mean that you’ve discovered half of the diverse ceremonies, festivals and celebrations held by the Balinese Hindus.

The diversity doesn’t only go as far as the types of ceremonies, the settings, social backgrounds of the ones holding the ceremonies and such. There are actually a number of completely distinct ceremonies that are only held in certain specific areas on the island, and nowhere else. One of the places known for having these kinds of unique rituals and traditions is Tenganan Pegringsingan village in Karangasem regency.

Tenganan Pegringsingan is one of the very few Bali Aga villages on the island; an ‘ancient’ village of a community who are the descendants of the ancient Balinese people from the Pre-Hindu era. The Bali Aga people are descendants of the indigenous Balinese people who refused to live side by side and blend with the people from Majapahit Kingdom who entered Bali between the 14th and 15th century. They fled to more secluded areas and carried on with their life away from the Majapahit influence. And decades later, up until today, they still have certain rules related to marriage with those from outside the village.

Tenganan Pegringsingan is a very charming village, located around 5 kilometers north-west of the calm slow paced tourist area of Candidasa. The village has a lovely traditional atmosphere; with houses that pretty much look alike lined up neatly on the village’s small main road from the entrance gates of the village, leading all the way up to the north end where the village temple is set.

 The entrance gate has two small temples on both sides and across of it there’s a “bale agung”; a kind of large gazebo which functions as the meeting point for the village administration and the community to make administrative decisions for the village.

 Just next to the bale agung, you can spot a drum tower (kul-kul). The kul-kul is struck 21 times daily in the morning; a quick good morning greeting a la Tenganan. Further up at the center you can find a series of communal pavilions where meetings and gatherings are held.  And last but most definitely not least, by the northern end of the village sets village temple, Pura Puseh, which is the temple of origin and also place of worship for the entire community of Tenganan Pegringsingan.

In a larger scale, the entire area that belongs to this village is divided into the residential area as described above, the plantation area and the rice field complex. All those assets are owned by the village and the village administration makes sure that everyone in the community enjoys the wealth that the village owns.  This once secluded community does indeed have its very own way of taking care of their land and their people.

One out of the many extraordinary exotic things about this village is the Geringsing cloth. Geringsing is a textile created by implementing the ‘double ikat’ method. This very particular demanding technique is only practiced in parts of India, Japan and Indonesia, being specifically in Tenganan Pegringsingan only. The palette of geringsing is typically red, neutral, and black, and are all made out of natural pigments.

Geringsing are regarded as sacred cloths. The elder leader of the village still keeps a number of very old geringsing pieces, each one of them with a long story from long before our generation. These days the people of Tenganan still produce textiles inspired by the original geringsing. Some are created as a replica of the ancient pieces, using only natural pigments, and others are produced as a souvenir product, implementing geringsing inspired patterns and artificial coloring.

Another unique feature of this village is their one of a kind ritual called Mekare-Kare also known as Pandan War, which is a self explanatory term, expect for the fact that it is of course not an actual war. Though it is not an actual war, it does involve blood, but the spiritual mysterious aspect of the ritual cause no men to feel any serious pain, nor do they get infected by the wound resulted by the end of the ritual.

This ceremony is held at Ngusaba Sambah, which on the Gregorian calendar normally falls in the beginning of June. The ceremony is held 2-4 times and its purpose is to offer a tribute to the village’s ancestors. The participants of the ritual are the males between teenagers to those who are 30 years old.

In the ritual, the participants fight each other using a pandan leaf, which is thorny, as their weapon, and a shield made out of an ate tree. This year’s Ngusaba Sambah festivities will take place between the 7th until 9th of June 2015.

 Having such unique features, stories, history as well as ancient Balinese heritage and traditions in modern day Bali, this village has obtained its own share of attention from tourists, and not to mention anthropologists, and became open to all that in 1970s.

The people of Tenganan Pegringsingan are known to be friendly and welcoming, and if you speak a little bit of Bahasa Indonesia or lucky enough to find one of the community members who speaks a little English, they are always more than happy to share some first-hand fascinating stories with you.

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December, 2017
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