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Makare-karean: A Test of Bravery and Endurance  

by on Saturday, 10 February 2007No Comment | 5,912 views

Makare-karean or war by using thorny pandanous leaves is an indigenous war dance of Tenganan Pagringsingan village. Tenganan Pegeringsingan is a traditional Bali Aga (Proto Bali) village is situated at Manggis district, regency of Karangasem approximately 65 km from Denpasar (the International Airport of Bali). It is near Candidasa and can be easily reached by public or private vehicles.


This unique and sacred ritual is held once a year in the fifth month of Balinese Calendar (around June or July) to celebrate the great ceremony of “Ngusaba Sambah”, a ceremony to preserve tradition and maintain the environment. This war dance is a test of bravery and endurance for all the male members of Tenganan Pagringsingan village.


This war dance or fight involves two bare-chested dancers equipped with thorny pandanus leaves as a weapon and a shield called tamiang made of woven rattan. There is no jury to control the fight but there are few people, called “tukang belas”, which have a duty to stop and supervise the fight. There are also three or four people act as an “umbul-umbul”, manager of the fighter , their primary duty is to select and match the fighters based on their age, and size of the body.


There are few rules that have to be observed by the fighters
1. It is forbidden to hit the opponent on the face.
2. It is forbidden to bring a knife or Kris into the arena.
3. It is forbidden to clinch the opponents.
4. All fighters have to be bare-chested.
Before the dance begins, both of the dancers make a promise (pasubaya) not to hit on the face. Though there is no punishment for breaking these rule and promise, no Tenganan man in his right mind dares to break this promise; losing reputation and social prestige are the price for breaking these rules and promise.


The dance begins when the umbul-umbul find a suitable match for a fighter. These two dancers standing in the middle of arena, there is no specific arena, just an open inside a circle made by the rest of the fighters. The fight begins when one of the tukang belas gives a signal. No time limit in this fight, the tukang belas will stop the fight when they see a sign of anger in the combatant face. But no one gets tempered after completing the attraction. Any scratch on the body of the dancer will be easily recovered by using treatment of coconut oil with other traditional ingredient. This war dance is accompanied by Selonding gamelan (a sacred Bali Aga ensemble)


After the makare-karean (war dance) a magibung (eating communally) ritual is held. All the dancers/fighters eat together in the wantilan (public hall). This ritual is used to strengthen the unity and to wash away the hard feeling produced by the fight.

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