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Home » People & Community

Pecalang: The Guardian of Bali?  

by on Thursday, 15 February 2007No Comment | 1,846 views

For Balinese, security is a vital aspect of life especially the security of religious ceremony, to ensure the security of their religious ceremony, a traditional security force called pecalang. The word “pecalang” is derived from the word “celang” that means “vigilant”. They are easily recognized by their cloths, their trademark uniform is, black and white checkered waistcloths, carrying keris daggers with black or checkered headdress.

Every village in Bali has its own pecalang, and the action of this traditional security force is controlled by the village regulation (awig-awig). This rapid spread of pecalang is greatly influenced by a law passed by the regional government of Bali in 2002 that formally legitimized the pecalang. The law stated that the safety and order in the area of the desa pakraman (village) is carried out by pecalang. Pecalang carries out duties of safeguarding the area of the desa pakraman relating or based on adapt (traditional law) and religion, and Pecalang are selected and relieved of their duties by the desa pakraman (village) based upon a village forum.

Their main duty in ensuring the security of a religious ceremony are vary such as controlling the traffic at ceremonies, guarding the cockfighting held as part of ceremonies, guarding the ogoh-ogoh parade on the pangrupukan day (a day before Nyepi, Balinese New Year) and ensuring the silence on the day of Nyepi by patrolling the streets to make sure that everyone, Hindu or not, keeps their lights turned off and does not venture out into the streets.

With the passing of time, the duty of pecalang is increased day by day. The new duties assign to pecalang nowadays are conducting identity card inspection, guarding an event such as conference, musical performance, opening of a new establishment, etc. In tourism area such as Kuta and Legian they may also provide ‘protection’ for bar and nightclub owners for monetary subsidies. In Nusa Dua, pecalang receive financing from hotels in exchange for similar protection.

These new duties will obscure the position of pecalang as a guardian of Balinese ceremony, culture and identity. The pecalang are created by the village based on traditional customary law for the benefit of the whole village community. They should work solely for the benefit of society and community in socio-religious event not for benefit of other institutions in exchange for financial gain.

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