As I mentioned in my previous post Brian and I ventured away from the grounds of our hotel, Alila Manggis only once during our five-day stay. It was too damn pretty to leave! Our one big cultural outing was a guided tour through Tenganan Village, an isolated community located in East Bali. At one time it was even referred to as one of the most secluded societies of the archipelago.
The people of Tenganan are called Bali Aga— “the original Balinese”. They are descendants from the pre-Majapahit kingdom of Pegeng. They have strict rules as to who is allowed to live in the village- only those born in the village can stay and become full members of the community. There are also strict rules regarding marriage- anyone who marries outside of the village….must leave the community immediately. Ouch! The Bali Aga also speak a dialect of the Balinese language that is entirely their own, dating back from thousands of years- supposedly it varies from village to village.
Tenganan Village is separated both socially and economically from the rest of Bali, shut off by a solid wall that surrounds the entire village- the wall is meant to keep outsiders away. There are four gates that you can access the village from, one facing north, south, east and west. Due to the inclusive nature of the village I was surprised that they were open to having tourists come in. Our guide explained that due to the entrance fee (two dollars per person) as well as the opportunity to sell their art; beautiful wovens, Ikat textiles & wood carvings, they make an exception. Tourists flock to the area due to the fact that the village still holds to the original Balinese traditions, ceremonies and rules.
It’s like walking into another world when you pass through the gates.
Roosters, dogs and even cows roam free in the village, although some of the roosters are also in bamboo-cages, some spray-painted in different colors for cockfights. When I first saw the brightly colored roosters (hot pink!) I was amused….until I learned about the cockfighting. Then I wanted run around and free them all. Our guide explained that cockfighting is over thousand-year-old Balinese tradition in Balinese Hinduism, and part of religious rituals to expel evil spirits. I found learning about the details of cockfights both fascinating and terribly disturbing at the same time.
The houses of Tenganan are arranged in rows on each side of stone paved avenues. In the central place is the council house where the elders meet. This council house is some seventy feet long, strongly built and very old.
It was an amazing few hours- there is nothing I love more (other than Brian and Frank) then learning about other cultures.
All photos by Brian Glodney photography