Besides the sun, sand and sea, the tropical island of Bali in Indonesia has more to offer. Known for her rich culture and customs, there are always some local festivals or traditional events to check out. One of them is the Pandanus War. Practised by the people of Tenganan Village, the Pandanus War is a ceremony to show respect to Lord Indra, the Hindu god of war. It features symbolic battles between two men using thorny Pandanus leaves as their weapon. Held only once a year during the fifth month of Hindu calendar, this cultural event is an eye-opener and huge tourist attraction.
Tenganan: A remote village where peace and harmony abound
Even though the Tengananese worship the god of war, they are peace loving people who reside together in harmony. Being surrounded by hills and mountains, the villagers believe this natural mountainscape to be the symbol of protection for the village from outside threats.
To get to Tenganan village, it takes around 2 hours of driving from Denpasar (capital of Bali) or 3 hours if you are travelling from the airport. Although the journey is quite long, there are many pit stops along the way for you to rest and dine. You may also wish to check out attractions such as the Bali Safari & Marine Park in Gianyar.
A parade to witness during the historical rituals
The main god of the Tengananese is Lord Indra. According to legends, Lord Indra protected the village from their vicious king, Maya Denawa, before the first century, and granted the commoners freedom. The battle between the two titans is what Pandanus War represents. This ritual is one of the biggest rituals for the people of Tenganan.
Pandanus War is held for two days in a row on every fifth month of the Hindu calendar, which is different from Gregorian calendar. So if you want to witness this event, you should check the local events calendar. In 2015, it was held on 9th June. The next Pandanus War will be held in May, 2016.
The ritual will start with a parade. All Tengananese people will wear traditional clothing and walk around the village carrying some offerings to show their gratitude to the gods. This presents perfect photo opportunities where you can gather with both local and international tourists to follow the parade.
The celebration starts with Tuak feast
After the long parade that covers quite a distance, the women will take their seat while the men prepare to battle. Get the best available spot around the arena to watch the ongoing rituals. On the arena, the men will start the most important part of the ritual by drinking Tuak, Balinese alcoholic beverage.
As a symbol of celebration, they will also dance to music created by traditional instruments, which are made specially for this event. Although the beverage is only available for the fighters, you can buy it at some local stores. The price varies according to quality but it should be less than 20,000 IDR (approximately 1.50 USD) per bottle.
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A celebration of freedom
It is called Pandanus War because the weapon that they use during the battle is made of pandanus leaves. The thorny leafs are bound and tied altogether to make them hard for hitting. The battle ritual usually starts at 2.00 pm and lasts for three hours. Each man will fight against another man for about one minute. One man portrays himself as the defender of Tenganan village and the other as a hostile outsider.
Although this is just a symbolic ritual, the fight itself is real and intense. However, there are no hard feelings among the fighters. No matter how bad they are bruised or bleeding, the day will still end with laughter, as it is the celebration of their freedom.
Pandanus War: A unique tradition you can only witness once a year
If you love cultural experiences, this event is a must on your “things to do” list. There is nowhere else in the world you can experience the hospitality of Balinese people while celebrating an event that features battles. Open to the public at no charges, the Pandanus War is an event you would not want to miss. So, grab your gears and prepare yourself for a once in a lifetime experience!
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