THE WARRIOR’S BLOOD
OUR CONTRIBUTOR FREANDY DAVID WITNESSED THE UNIQUE RITUAL OF PANDAN WAR…
Pandan War in Tenganan Village
The moment I arrived in Tenganan Village on my first visit, I could feel the cool and natural ambiance of the area already. Located in Karangasem region, this village is one of a few ancient Balinese villages that still maintains its cultural roots which can be easily seen in their ancient buildings, clothes with gringsing motifs and community systems. But there is one unique and interesting tradition that tourists should not miss here – the Pandan War. If you’re curious about this tradition, come and join me as I watch Pandan War from up close…
THE WAR BEGINS
Pandan War that is locally known as mekare-kare is not merely a traditional performance, but also a part of the culture and ritual of Bali. The local people believe a disaster will come or something bad will happen to the villagers if they don’t perform this ritual. Pandan War is actually a dance using the thorns of pandan leaves as “weapons”. The dancers have to rub the pandan leaves on their opponent’s back, causing injuries. That’s why this war dance is only performed by men who have passed Metruna Nyoman, a local wisdom that marks adulthood.
The Tenganan villagers believe that the blood flows from the Pandan dancers is a symbol of sacred offerings to the God Indra (the God of Wars), one of the manifestations of Ida Sang Hyang Widhi Wasa (the Almighty). Tourists might see this ritual as an extreme tradition that is different from other Balinese traditions. Meanwhile, the Daha (the young girls) will witness the Pandan War from the top of a bale so they can see the expertise and courage of the Truna (the young men) who participate in the ritual. However, the ritual doesn’t mean Tenganan villagers support war in any way. This dance is only a symbol of their identity, the people of Tenganan Village who have never forgotten the traditions of their ancestors as warriors.
The Pandan War performance still exists until today because it is considered an important value in the villagers’ lives. This tradition also has a valuable history, as it is a form of gratitude for the people of Tenganan Village to the majestic God Surya who has provided prosperity and peace. In the old days, Tenganan Village used to be a dry village with a lot of deaths. To fix the condition, God Surya gave his blessings by providing prosperity to the villagers. Beside its historical value, the Pandan War is also a symbol of men’s power to defend the village from any danger and other negative influences.
HEAL THE WOUNDS
Without a doubt, the Pandan War is such an entertaining performance for the audience – I could hear some women screaming hysterically as we watched some of the dancers fall to the ground or when we saw pandan leaves embedded in the body of the dancers, leaving wounds. For outsiders, the tradition might be similar to a boxing match
where two men fight each other. But it is completely different as there is no hostility between the dancers although it looks like they are fighting. At the end of the dance, every dancer has wounds and blood on his body. But don’t worry because there is one effective recipe to heal the wounds immediately – one only has to apply mashed turmeric on the wounds. And I could see there is no hard feeling between the dancers once the performance ends. They seem to get along as usual.
If you want to witness the Pandan War, come in mid-June. This tradition is usually held for two days in a row. But please note that this is a sacred traditional event, so tourists are advised to wear traditional Balinese outfits and sarongs as homage. Everyone is welcome to watch the Pandan War for free and every year the village is flocked with people who want to capture this event in photos and videos. So please come early to get the perfect spot because there is no special seats for visitors.
The girls are watching the Pandan War from a bale to see the dancers’ expertise and courage.
Two men ‘fight’ in the Pandan War performance.
The wounds can be healed with turmeric.