Locals and visitors flocked to the main intersection of Tegalsambi village in Jepara, Central Java, on Sept. 4, during the Muslim pilgrimage month of
Dzulhijjah to watch Perang Obor (Torch War), a tradition believed to have been around since the 16th century.
Participants in the Torch War used lighted dried banana leaves to attack each other. Held in the evening, the tradition is said to have been started by a village resident named Kyai Babadan and his servant, Ki Gemblong. It was meant as a ritual to ward off evil and enhance villagers’ well-being.
Prior to the Torch War, participants joined a parade, which started from the village head’s house to the intersection of Tegalsambi, which is located about 300 meters away. The parade started off with adzan (call to prayer). A prayer was also said to protect spectators and those taking part in the battle. For about an hour, 40 fighters were engaged in the torch battle amid shouts and whistles from spectators.
Some enthusiastic spectators risked serious injury when they entered the arena. At the end of the battle, the combatants went to the village head’s house, where their injuries were treated. They usually recover from their wounds in less than three days.