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Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered

Thousands of Balinese Youth Parade the Streets of Tegallalang Dressed and Decorated ala The Rocky Horror Show

(10/7/2012) Denpost recently provided an interesting account of a colorfully unique ceremony held by the young people of the village of Tegallalang in Gianyar, Bali.

The Ngerebeg ritual is a time-honored annual event in which thousands of children and teenagers take to the streets of the village in Halloween-like outfits and theatrical make-up in an effort to look terrifying and ward off evil spirits and bad luck.

The youths – looking like the cast from the “Rocky Horror Show” – parade through the streets carrying janur palms as part of the lead-up to the annual anniversary (piodalan) celebrations for the Duur Bingin Temple in Tegallalang.

For those adept at reading a Balinese calendar – the precise date for the fearsome parade is held each Wraspati, Umanis, Wuku Pahang. Or, to the rest of us, a date that most recently fell on Wednesday, October 3, 2013.

The people of Tegallalang are absolutely convinced that the ritual of Ngerebeg must be observed; a failure to do so certain to bring natural disaster and ill fortune on their community.

The chief of the traditional village of Tegallalang, Pande Wayan Karsa, explains that the Ngerebeg ceremony can neutralize the negative characteristics of mankind (sad ripu), a cleansing process absolutely essential in the period immediately before the piodalan of Pura Duur Bingin.

The village’s youth spend great time and care adopting frightening countenances. “Each time we hold the ritual, the children and teenagers gather and allow their faces to be made up horrifically,” said Karsa.

Imbued with a special unifying spirit, the young people believe that by adopting costumes and body decorations emblematic of man’s most evil tendencies and by making offerings at local temples, they can rid their village of all these negative influences, thereby purifying the community for the coming piodalan.

A number of deadly sins afflicting mankind are neutralized in the Ngerebeg rituals via the adornments and masks worn by the parade participants.

There are participants portraying uncontrolled wild animal urges represented by a young woman pretending to be both pregnant and unmarried. Greed and avarice are signified by others bedecked in riches and materials items they do not really need. Those quick to emotion and anger appear with faces covered in cuts and contusions reflecting the practical consequences of a predisposition to quarrelling and fighting. A state of personal despair and confusion is represented by another young person pretending to be suicidal or homicidal.

Many of the teenagers chose to play the part of drunks. Others came wearing bandages and casts. Another skinny youth appeared shortless warning of the physical consequences of narcotics use. A boy wearing a white shirt and tie that failed to conceal an otherwise miserable physical appearance exemplified jealousy.

The thousands of children and youth paraded the streets, leaving offerings at local temples and at the walls of the Pura Duur Bingin.

The good-natured parade of ghouls and criminal-types, exorcised all the negative traits on parade, cleansing the village and clearing the way for the sacred piodalan to be held the following day.