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Wednesday
Mar072012

The Human Blood Sacrifice Ritual of The Bali Aga

As discussed in previous blog posts (here and here), The Bali Aga or Bali Mula is a little known ethnic group on the paradise island of Bali and they provide an incredibly unique look back to Bali’s past and serve as a living museum of a 17th century lifestyle. 

Bali ceremony wellness retreatThe Bali Aga village of Tenganan hosts the bloody ceremony of Mekare KareThey are a secretive and private group whose ancestors predate Hinduism in Bali.  Culturally they are quite different from the rest of Bali’s population and have clung tightly to their history and ceremonies that are unlike any others on the island or the rest of Indonesia.

Bali villas ritual tourTwo youg Bali Aga boys battle during Mekare Kare

Only two Bali Aga villages remain.  The villages of Tenganan and Trunyan are located North West of Candi Dasa and Amed, in Eastern Bali and both are a stronghold of ancient native traditions.

The Human Blood Sacrifice Ritual of The Bali Aga

The Tenganans still practice an ancient rite known as Mekare Kare, which is a ritual blood sacrifice. This annual ritual fighting of its tribe members is a sight unlike any other that I have seen in South East Asia.  Mekare Kare is the highlight of the 3 day Udaba Samba celebration that occurs in May or June. 

best bali tour ritualThe mediator struggles to maintain control during the blood sacrifice ritualI have been to many villages that hold fighting ceremonies between male combatants with all manner of weapons including bamboo poles, whips, swords, shields, animal parts, etc.  Many tend to be tame and are more of a ceremonial fight than actual combat. (That’s easy for me to say as I stand on the sideline with my camera.)  While there is bloodshed and fierce competition at times during the Mekare Kare battle, the combatants always leave with a smile and maintain love for one another.  But lets be clear, these fighters are armed with razor sharp weapons that do damage and cause great pain.

bali travel photographyThe Pandanus Tree provides the razor sharp weapons used in the blood ritualPreperation for the Bali Aga ceremony

In the days preceding the big event the thorny Pandanus tree, much like a succulent, with razor sharp spines are harvested and compiled into packets of ten leaves at a length of approximately 14 inches (36 centimeters).  They also carry a rattan-woven shield to protect them from their opponent’s attempts to smack and rake the thorns into his flesh.

bali ceremony religion tourA bundle of Pandanus leaves create the weapon used in the Bali Aga Ceremony

Before the fight commences, participants drink rice wine or tuak (a strong fermented local palm alcohol- for more on tuak, click here).  This ritual symbolizes the brotherhood and love amongst the tribe. The fighting is judged and managed by a mediator who looks out for the safety of all combatants and makes sure no one falls off the platform or suffers injuries inconsistent with the battle proper. Battles last 5 to 10 minutes and the fighter who inflicted the most damage and draw the most blood with the thorny weapon is crowned the victor.

Bali art and culture tourThe crowd shouts and brandishes thier Pandan weapons during the ritual fighting

The Blood Sacrifice Battle of The Bali Aga

Early in the ceremony the young boys face off against one another and subsequent matches pit older opponents against one another.

bali wellness retreat ceremonyYoung boys are the first combatants in the Bali Aga ritual blood sacrificeAfter the battle a special traditional liquid medicine is administered to the injured (which tends to be just about everyone). Then the entire village prepares food and drink for an elaborate feast, which must follow the Balinese sacrifice of human blood.

bali villa wellness ritualThe battle scars from the blood sacrifice ritual in Bali, Indonesia

I want to reiterate that travel into these parts of Bali is not for everyone and can result in violence if the traveler is unaccustomed to the ways of the Bali Aga.  It is highly recommended to use the services of a guide or tour company like Balifornian or the many other qualified and knowledgeable companies in Bali.

bali sacrifice ceremony wellnessThe big men take thier turn battling it out during the Mekare KareHave you seen a unique ceremony or ritual like this in your travels?  Please leave a comment below and tell us about it.

Happy (and safe) Travels from The Balifonians!

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Reader Comments (4)

It's crazy this is still a ritual, and with such young boys partaking in it! Very interesting photographs too.

March 11, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSuzy

Amazing game...

March 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPWT Health Tips

Great post information Thanks for sharing

March 12, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPWT Sports Racing News

Looks painful, yet fascinating! Interesting culture.

April 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJet airports

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