This weekend proved a good time to be back in Bali. Being right in the middle of ritual season (at the end of the Galungan-Kuningan period) there was too much happening to be able to keep up with it all. But one thing I couldn’t resist was to go to the Pangerebongan at Pura Petilan Pangerebongan Kadaton. I’ve seen a lot of Balinese rituals, but this has to be up there with the most spectacular.
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).