Tajen Cockfighting Today
There are many articles or essays in the net which explains cockfighting in Bali in remarkable detail but they are all in the past. So I will give information in relation with cockfighting in Bali after the 1981 ban up to present days.
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In 1981 the government of Indonesia banned the cockfighting but the practice has merely moved away from prying eyes so that it is less obvious but still very real. Cockfighting runs in the blood Balinese men especially the older generation, Fred B. Eiseman, Jr author of Sekala & Niskala wrote “So popular has cockfighting been in Bali for so many decades, that it is about as realistic to tell a Balinese man that he cannot participate in his favorite sport as it is to tell the sun not to rise”.
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In the reign of Mangku Pastika (as a head of Bali Provincial Police), the campaign against cockfighting reached its peak, the secular tajen (cockfighting for gambling purpose) virtually vanished from the island but the Tabuh Rah (cockfighting for religious purpose) survived until present day. Tajen has become a rare event.
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Though the secular tajen virtually vanished from the earth face, the gamblers found a way to satisfy their gambling lust. The Tabuh Rah was modified to fulfill the need of the gamblers. The Tabuh Rah usually consist of three matches (telung sahet) and of course this three matches will not satisfy the need of the gamblers, three matches was expanded to eight or ten matches.
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This modified Tabuh Rah did not last long. The police grew vigilant and they stop the match when the third match was finished. This situation made the gamblers turn to their only hope to deities in some temples.
Some temples in Bali are well known for holding tajen for 7 until 42 days. This kind tajen can not be touched by the police since it is protected by the deity of the temple where the tajen is held. The deities of these temples are fond of tajen, pestilence and misfortune will fall on the congregations of these temples if the tajen is not held. Of course there were many police officers who tried to stop this tajen but after they stopped this tajen, they usually got an accident or paralyzed by mysterious illness. They can only be saved or healed after asking forgiveness to the deity in the temple where the stopped tajen is held. Sometimes the punishment from the enraged deities cost the lives of the officers.
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This tajen is usually held to celebrate the temple ceremony (every 210 days). Thousands of gamblers will come from all over Bali. The passionate game is held without any fear, the former glory restored but the economic crisis and the drawback of tourism have taken their toll the size of the bet is reduced significantly nevertheless the joy, the laugh and the tears are still there.