Bali & Beyond - - CONTENTS - By Freandy David

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…


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.


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.

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