Denpasar, Kesiman, Petilan Pengrebongan Temple

Written by on June 10, 2012 in Bali Temple with 0 Comments

Denpasar, Kesiman, Petilan Pengrebongan Temple



The temple itself is huge, having been the heart of the sub-kingdom of Kadaton, which played a key role in the rise of the kingdom of Badung in the eighteenth century, although Kadaton itself was subsumed into Kesiman when the neighbouring lord of that area became the power-broker of South Bali in the middle of the nineteenth century. The outer courtyard of the temple contains a huge cock-fighting barn (wantilan), although interestingly there isn’t as much cockfighting as there used to be. But it is essential for the temple festival that there are cockfights going on, so the noise of betting (‘cok’; ‘sal’, the calls for even or odd wagers on the central betting pool) booms out and blends in with the gamelan, singing of kidung and kekawan and megaphone instructions to worshippers from the usual self-important gentleman attempting to wrest order out of chaos.

In the early afternoon, worshippers crowd in with their offerings. Some then move on while others stay as more people pour in accompanying the different figures of gods who either reside in the temple or belong to connecting temples from the region that Kadaton once controlled, over to Tohpati in the east and Sanur in the south. Amongst the deities coming in are a number of Barongs (lion/dragons) and Rangdas (witches), this time there were three of the former and I think five of the latter. Initially they are rested in different buildings when they arrive, but then, as the ritual gets more intense, the various temple priests attached to each of the deities gather together in huge clouds of incense. The build-up for the main part of the ceremony takes place over about an hour-and-a-half. At a certain point when the main prayers have been said suddenly everyone stands up to get ready to process. Meanwhile, not only have the main priests who will put on the Barong and Rangda costumes gone into trance, but so have a number of members of the congregation, male and female (it just happens spontaneously, one minute someone is sitting there looking intense, the next minute he is shrieking and his body convulsing as a couple of friends try to support him and keep him under control).

A procession forms (things just seem to ‘happen’, nobody is really directing traffic here), with one of the Barongs leading out proceeded by people carrying lances and other regalia, followed by the Rangdas, the other Barongs and then the other god figures, into which the respective deities have entered. Those in trance join the retinues, and a number of krises are produced, with which some trancers attempt to stab themselves. The whole procession goes out of the main courtyard through the temple’s great gate, then three times around the cock-fight barn (anti-clockwise, with the barn on the left of the participants), with cock-fighting still in progress. It is a huge crush, not helped by the abundance of people all trying to get good photos or film of the proceedings (yours truly included).

Once the deities have come back into the temple, there is a second procession of mainly older women dressed in white, again going into trance, but this time of a more gentle type as they lead the parade with a beautiful stately dance. They are followed by a man with a long ‘rope’ around his neck (a long bit of checked black-and-white cloth) with twelve people holding onto it, (mostly women), then a group of people carrying ancient weapons of the type that you see in nineteenth-century photographs, then two groups of other men dressed in ancient warriors garb. The second procession follows the path of the first, except that the last group of ancient warriors stands at the mouth of the temple gate and watches.

Afterwards, when everyone has gone back in, the temple elders sit on a central pavilion and make pronouncements in an archaic ritual language, as this part of the ritual is finished off (of course there are many other preceding and subsequent events). The main events take nearly three hours, although the other parts of the ceremony go over three days.

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