The residents of Bali’s most famous traditional Bali Aga village like to celebrate and every month of June, they really like to turn it on. During this month the village comes alive as the festival season revs up with dance, ceremony and a host of visual extravaganzas. The month’s celebrations peak, on the 24th and 25th of the month, culminating in two days of extraordinary activity as the parang pandan or pandan wars take place.
Men dressed in sarongs take turns to enter the makeshift ring to face an opponent as they fight with bunches of spiny pandan leaves. The objective is to rub the opponent to draw blood but still remain in control.
The most moving thing is that after their fight is done, they each leave the ring, smiling beautifically at the man they have just tried to pummel into submission.
Sometimes a foreign guest will have a try, but I have yet to see one win. It doesn’t stop them from trying though.
The village takes on the atmosphere of a country fair as stalls are set up selling shiny gewgaws and food stalls issue forth enticing smells of babi guling ( roast suckling pig) sate and other treats. The local Tenganan coffee is plentiful and delicious, harvested just minutes away from the village.
The village complex remains almost uncha- nged from ancient times and while their lives are a succession of ceremonies and rituals, and tradition reigns, the residents are very welcoming to visitors.
Weaving is the preferred village speciality and the double ikat produced here is valued by textile collectors from around the world. Come festival time all the women are dressed in their best gringsing, as the textile is known. Dripping with jewellery and looking like princesses, it is just another part of the celebration, and a chance for visitors to see life in another sphere.
Processions and trance dances may also be witnessed although most visitors flock to the arena to see the main event of the day.
Tenganan is just a couple of miles from Candidasa on the east coast, a comfortable drive from the south or of course a great place to stop for a day or two.