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.
They 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.
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.
I 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.
Preperation 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.
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.
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.
After 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.
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.
Have 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!