The Bali Aga and their traditions
The Bali Aga are a little known ethnic group that has been living in Bali for many generations and predate most of the current Balinese population (descendants of the Majapahit Empire). The Bali Aga culture provides a valuable look back to Bali’s past and serve as a living museum of 17th century lifestyle in Bali.
They are a secretive and private group whose ancestors predate Hinduism in Bali. Culturally, they are quite different from the rest of Bali’s population and have clung tightly to their history and ceremonies that are unlike any others on the island or the rest of Indonesia.
Only two Bali Aga villages remain. The villages of Tenganan and Trunyan are located North West of Candi Dasa and Amed, in Eastern Bali and both are a stronghold of ancient native traditions such as Mekare Kare, The Human Blood Sacrifice Ritual of The Bali Aga.
The Tenganans still practice this ancient rite known as Mekare Kare. This annual ritual combat of its tribe members is a sight unlike any other that I have seen in South East Asia. Mekare Kare is the highlight of the 3 day Udaba Samba celebration that occurs in May or June.
Ritual Fighting in Bali
I have been to many villages that hold fighting ceremonies between male combatants with all manner of weapons including bamboo poles, whips, swords, shields, animal parts, etc. Many tend to be tame and are more of a ceremonial fight than actual combat. (That’s easy for me to say as I stand on the sideline with my camera). While there is bloodshed and fierce competition at times during the Mekare Kare battle, the combatants always leave with a smile and maintain love for one another. But lets be clear, these fighters are armed with razor sharp weapons that do damage and cause great pain.
For much more information and photographs of the Bali Aga, their unique culture and traditions, fighting weapons, and much more, please see
The Human Blood Sacrifice Ritual of The Bali Aga
A word of caution: Travel into Bali Aga villages is unlike other parts of Bali. The Bali Aga have unique traditions and ways of life. Occasionally they are not welcoming of visitors and exploring here unattended can result in violence if the traveler is unaccustomed to the ways of the Bali Aga. It is highly recommended to use the services of a guide or tour company like Balifornian Tours, Floating Leaf, or the many other qualified and knowledgeable companies in Bali.