Besides having plenty of beautiful objects, Bali Island also has a thick culture. They uphold the culture really high and feel proud about it. And that makes it unique. Every year, tourists would come from anywhere in the world to visit this exotic island. Not just to go to the beach, but also to experience their unique culture.

The best way to get those is by joining (or at least watching) their sacred rituals. In Bali, they have a lot of rituals they must do. Each ritual has different purpose, different timing, and of course, different scenario. But all of them always attract tourists. Here are some of those unique rituals:

1. Perang Pandan (the Pandan War)

  • Time : Around early June, 8th or 9th
  • Location : Tenganan Village

Perang Pandan is not really a war. It is just a ritual where the performers are pretending like they are having a war. They do not use real weapon or dangerous tools at this war. Instead, they use a bundle of pandan leaves. Pandan leaf has thorns on it. That might hurts a little bit, but it is not dangerous at all.

Two Men Trying to Beat Each Other During Perang Pandan (Source: Flickr. Credit: Mio Cade)
Two Men Trying to Beat Each Other During Perang Pandan
(Source: Flickr. Credit: Mio Cade)

Tenganan people have slightly different beliefs with other Balinese people. They do not believe in caste. They also consider God Indra is the God beyond God. God Indra is a God of War. And this ritual is to show respect towards him. This sacred ceremony usually starts at 14.00 in the afternoon and takes two days.

Before the war ceremony started, all the performers have to perform “Melelawang” first. This is the ritual when all performers would go around the village to beg for salvation. After Melelawang,they will drink traditional alcoholic beverages together and throw the bottles to the side of the stage. And then, the “war” begins.

To have this fight, the performer will hug their opponent and then hit their opponent’s back using the thorny pandan leaves. They also carry a shield made out of plaited rattan. The battle is done in rotation for three hours where each performer will fight for about one minute.

While doing the rituals, all the participants must wear traditional clothes of Tenganan. The war performers must wear kamen (a kind of sarong), saput (shawl), and udeng (headband).

After the war is done, all the performers would have blooded back because of the pandan’s thorn. Therefore, they will take off each other’s thorns. They also will treat their opponent’s wound by applying betel leaf and turmeric on it. After all, there will be no hostility and definitely no hard feelings.

A Young Performer is Treating His Opponent’s Back by Applying Turmeric (Source: Flickr. Credit: Mio Cade)
A Young Performer is Treating His Opponent’s Back by Applying Turmeric
(Source: Flickr. Credit: Mio Cade)

2. Omed-Omedan

  • Time : On Ngembak Geni Day, One day after Nyepi Holly Day
  • Location : Sesetan Village, Southern Denpasar

Omed-omedan means “Pulling Eaching Other”. This ritual is done by a large group of young men and women where they are pulling each other, hugging each other, and in the end, kissing each other. This ritual is very unique and attracts lots of tourists, especially the youngsters who are still single.

Long time ago, there was a small kingdom named Puri Oka. One day, in front of the palace, young people were gathering and playing around. They were pulling each other, having so much fun, and making so much noise. Hearing this, the king, who was sick at that time, came out of the palace in anger.

But when he looked down, he saw that his people were having so much fun. He felt happy about it. And suddenly, he was recovering very quickly. Thus, he ordered his people to keep doing this ritual regularly every Ngembak Geni Day.

The Girl is Shy When the Ritual is About to Start (Source: Flickr. Credit: andi anang junaedi)
The Girl is Shy When the Ritual is About to Start
(Source: Flickr. Credit: andi anang junaedi)

Because the ritual is a little bit strange and somewhat inappropriate, controversy started to rise as years go by. There was a time when the people of Sesetan Village completely stop practicing this ritual. But then, something strange happened. The people saw two hogs having a huge fight in front of their Pura.

Nobody knows where those hogs came from and why would they fight. But the fight was really huge and worrisome. Suddenly, those hogs disappeared mysteriously. People considered this strange event as a bad sign. They believed strange and worse thing will happen again at their village because they stopped the tradition. And then, they decided to practice the ritual regularly again.

The ceremony started by praying together in Pura. After that, they will split up in two large groups; boys and girls. The boy will have to pull the girl and hug her. In the end, he will have to try kissing her with all the people to see. If he failed the kiss, his friends will pour water on him. The participants of this ceremony are single boys and girls with the age around 18 to 30 years old.


3. Makepung

  • Time : Every Sunday on the months of June to October
  • Location : Jembrana region

Literally, the word Makepung means “race” in folk Balinese language. But actually, it is a ritual of buffalo race. Makepung is not a sacred ritual that is related to God. In fact, it was just a casual game played by farmers just to kill time and have fun. But gradually, as it became more and more popular, the game became a regular tradition.

First, the farmer will attach a cart on their buffalo. He then will get on to the cart and spur the buffalo to run as fast as it could. That was how the race usually took place. But as time goes by, they modified and upgraded the rules to make the race more interesting.

There was just one buffalo used by one farmer. Now, each farmer must have two buffalos attached to each other. The cart is much smaller now then how it usually was, making it more difficult for the farmer to take control of his buffalos. And of course, decoration and buffalo’s costumes became mandatory now. During the race, there will be a group of people playing music using jegog (traditional Balinese musical instrument made out of bamboo).

Two Contestants Are Neck-to-Neck During the Race (Source: Flickr. Credit: I Gede Sanat Kumara)
Two Contestants Are Neck-to-Neck During the Race
(Source: Flickr. Credit: I Gede Sanat Kumara)

Winning this race is very tricky. Even if you are the first to reach the finish line, you are not automatically a winner. In order to be the winner of this challenge, you need to be the first one to reach the finish line and you need to be at least 10 meters ahead of the runner up. If you reach the finish line first but one of your opponent are less than 10 meters behind you, then you are not the winner. It was that runner up who is considered as a winner.

Due to the high popularity of this race, the government has ordered to throw regular races for Makepung. Bupati Cup (the Regent Cup) is held every August and Gubernur Cup (the Governor Cup) is held every October. Both cups used the circuit on Dlod Brawah Village and Banyubiru Village.

Beside those two government cups, there are also 10 local races that are held during June to October every Sunday. The circuit is on Dlod Brawah, Eastern Mertasari Loloan, Banyubiru Village Tegal Berkis, Tegalcangkring Village Temuku Aya, and Kaliakah.


If you have a plan to visit Bali, do not forget to check the schedule of these unique rituals. But of course, do not forget to check out other unique rituals in Bali that we would provide on the part two of this article.


other related articles

Must-Try List of Traditional Culinary from Bali

Feel The Serenity in Ubud, Bali