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At play: Local Tenganan boys play mekocok, a traditional gambling game using dice that is heavily influenced by a Chinese game.The commotion started early one evening when dozens of Tenganan Dauh Tukad youth, all dressed in traditional sarong and without shirts, jumped from the Bale Agung and ran toward various corners of the village.
The Bale Agung, an elevated, open pavilion in the center of the village, is Tenganan Dauh Tukad’s “city hall”, the place where elders oversee the social, cultural and customary affairs of the village.
The running youths were full-fledged members of the village’s sekeha teruna (youth group) and had just commenced megendong-gendongan, an annual ritual to welcome new members.
Across the village, adolescent boys dressed in a glamorous traditional costume fitted with gringsing, the dark, hand-woven cloth that is the signature garment of Tenganan, were waiting in anticipation for their elders to pick them up.
The ascending sound of gamelan and kulkul (wooden bells) from the Bale Agung signaled that the time had come.
A boy with a sumbu, an ornamental staff made of woven coconut leaves, ran as fast as he could from the north part of the village to the Dalem Majapahit temple to the south, officially notifying the deities that their new subjects would soon bow before them.
There were 16 boys who participated in the ritual, and soon, one by one, they emerged, each sitting on the back of his senior, one of the full-fledged members of the youth group.
Mad dash: Tenganan Dauh Tukad youth, all dressed in traditional sarong and without shirts, jump from the Bale Agung and run towaFollowing closely behind were the boys’ families, each carrying a set of offerings comprised suckling pig and a traditional snack called blukbuk made of sticky rice of three different colors — red, black and white — symbolizing the three principal deities Brahma, Wisnu and Iswara.
The boys prayed at the Dalem Majapahit, which literally means King of Majapahit, revealing the historic ties between the village and the mighty empire that once ruled many parts of the archipelago and annexed Bali in the 14th century. The boys later made their way to the Puseh temple to pray.
After the completion of the prayers, the youth once again rode piggyback. The human hobbyhorses ran as fast as they could on the gravel path toward the Bale Agung, encircling the pavilion three times.
The locals and tourists who watched the ritual cheered repeatedly to express their support for the participants.
Putu Ardana, the village chief, said, “Physical and mental tests and togetherness among the youth is the essence of this ritual. Everyone can carry the candidates on their backs, but they have to understand the ritual.”
“After they finish undergoing the ritual, the 16 candidates will automatically become members of sekeha teruna Dukuh Mengku [the village’s youth group] and should obey the rules,” Ardana said.
Megendong-gendongan is part of the Daha Nyambah ceremony to inaugurate new teruna in Tenganan Dauh Tukad, about 60 kilometers east of Denpasar.
The village has several distinct characteristics that distinguish it from its closest neighbor, Tenganan Pegringsingan village, where residents proudly call themselves Bali Aga and do not recognize the influence of Majapahit.
Test of strength: Sixteen boys participated in the ritual this year, one by one emerging to sit on the back of his senior, a fulAnother necessary ritual that is also part of Daha Nyambah was conducted in the afternoon.
In full traditional dress, the 16 teruna gathered in the Bale Agung. They were then divided into two groups, with the first group heading to Banjar Kaja hamlet in the north of the village, and the second half heading to Banjar Kelod in the south.
With slow steps, they walked to the north and south, entering the hamlet’s hall and then sat, waiting for krama daha (women) to say prayers.
Later the boys boarded a unique, Ferris-wheel like wooden swing and began rotating the wheel, three times toward the north and three times south.
For the villagers of Tenganan Dauh Tukad, the rotation of the swing reflects the effort to achieve balance in life.