Every year, the villagers of Tenganan Pegringsingan in Karangasem celebrate a month-long religious festival called Usaba Sambah, to respect lord Indra, the god of war in Hindu mythology.
Among the rituals held during the festival is Mekare Kare or perang pandan, where the men of Tenganan proudly display their courage in a ritual battle. This year, the ritual took place on June 24 and 25.
Armed with clubs made of thorny pandanus leaves and rattan shields, they took their place on an elevated wooden stage to partake in a brief “duel”, accompanied by the sounds of gamelan played at a fast pace to boost the fighters’ spirits.
For a total of three hours — each fight lasts only a few minutes but is sufficient to inflict wounds on the participants and even draw blood — it is a contest open to all, including boys of all ages. No hard feelings, no hatred, no reve...