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Wantilan: From Cockfight Arena to Art Performance Stage  

by on Tuesday, 16 October 2007No Comment | 4,090 views

Pagoda-like, multi-tiered Meru is surely the pinnacle of Balinese architecture, the prima ballerina of temple courtyard. But it is not the biggest structure which is produced by the Balinese. When it comes to size, wantilan or arena for cockfighting is a king pin. Wantilan can be found almost in every village all over the island, each village usually has its own wantilan near the village center; a big temple usually has its own wantilan. The vast number of wantilan exists in the island is a reminder of the popularity of the cockfighting in the bygone days.


The Wantilan is an open all-side structure covered by two or three roofs in pagoda like arrangement. The Wantilan consists of a large square that contains one two smaller square on whose angle the round uprights supporting the roof stand. The small square in the middle of wantilan serves as cockfight arena, this arena is the most important part of the wantilan.

In 1981, the government banned cockfighting and other forms of gambling, the big cockfighting in public place such as Wantilan is illegal. Wantilan lost its function as cockfight arena. This phenomenon brought a great change to the structure of the Wantilan; the new wantilans which are built after 1981 are no longer square in shape rectangular. The square which serves as cockfight arena in the middle of the wantilan is replaced by a raised floor on one end of the Wantilan which is serves as a stage for art performance.


The function of the Wantilan, nowadays, is no longer a big cockfight arena but rather a big stage for art performances. The high demand on art and cultural performance from tourism industry in early 1980s speed up the conversion of cockfight arena to the art performance stage. Only few Wantilan in big temples retain their original structure and function.

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