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Jakarta Post

A blaze of glory.

Wed, September 20, 2017   /   02:02 pm
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    Dancing flames: War participants fight during the Torch War ritual in Tegalsambi, Jepara, Central Java. JP/ Maksum Nur Fauzan

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    Watch out: Spectators react as two combatants wield flaming torches. JP/ Maksum Nur Fauzan

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    Splash of color: Participants brave the sparkling flames during the Torch War. JP/ Maksum Nur Fauzan

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    Simple tool: A decorated conical hat used as protective gear lies on dry banana tree fronds. JP/ Maksum Nur Fauzan

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    Before the show: A Torch War participant shows his gloves and simple protective gear against fire smoke. JP/ Maksum Nur Fauzan

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    Ready to go: War participants pray before engaging in their torch battle. JP/ Maksum Nur Fauzan

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    The source: The main flame is paraded before the Torch War. JP/ Maksum Nur Fauzan

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.