Tenganan Village or better known as Tenganan Pegringsingan is one of many ancient villages on the Island of Bali. Life pattern of the community reflects the culture and customs of Bali Aga (pre-Hindu) tradition being different from other villages in Bali. In Tenganan, home to the Bali Aga (the oldest tribal group in Bali), the young men fight it out the traditional way. And they do so to impress the village’s unmarried women. At the Usaba Sambah Festival, which usually starts in May or June, the men start sparring (a fight called makare-kare) with just sharp pandanus leaves and a bamboo shield, guaranteeing both blood and lots of excitement.
Mekaré-kare is the culmination of a series of Ngusaba Sambah ceremonial procession held in June lasting for 30 days. During a month long procession, the Mekaré-kare event is organized for 2-4 times and each event will be accompanied with the presentation of offerings to the ancestors. Mekaré-kare or ‘pandanus war’ is carried out by men from children to old people.
As the name implies, the means used are thorny pandanus leaves cut into pieces along ± 30 cm as a weapon and accompanied with a shield which serves to fend off the attacks from the scratches of pandanus thorn conducted by the opponent. Any injuries caused by scratches of the pandanus thorn will be smeared with herbal ingredients such as galangal, turmeric, and some others.
There are no winners or losers; the objective is to draw blood as an offering to the gods. After the battles, the combatants’ wounds are treated with a stinging mixture of alcohol and turmeric, leaving no scars. Meanwhile, the women of the village don the famous hand-woven double ikat textiles, known as ‘Geringsing’, that is believed to possess the power to protect the wearer from sickness and evil.