Usaba Sambah

Ancient Rites Combine The Bizarre with The Elegant

You might visit Tenganan on any given date to dwell in its uniquely designed streets or to study the way double-ikat cloth is produced. After all, the sarongs and slendangs woven in this village, are believed to protect their owners from sickness and ill-fate. Several Bali Aga villages, spread all over East Bali, are home to some of the first inhabitants of Bali. Their true significance lies in the fact that they adhere to some peculiar traditional ways. This becomes clear if you visit the area somewhere in June or July, when you will almost certainly be able to witness a series of ceremonies that throw an entire community into religious frenzy.

During the festive period of Usaba Sambah, all villagers dress up in their brightest outfit. Virgin girls and boys in magnificent costumes and colorful slashes, hair adorned with hammered gold, perform extremely formal and hypnotizing trance dances. If there are enough marriageable girls in the village, they will sit on the chairs of a giant, primitive ferris, revolved by foot power for hours on end. Or those smartly dressed young women, while looking slightly shy, will make careful mental notes on the dusty and noisy spectacle below: men engaging in a ferocious war dance, dueling each other with prickly panadanus leaf whips, encouraged by the intense, martial sounds of kare music…