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Tajen – Balinese Cockfighting

tajen tabuh rah

Cockfights, which in Balinese are known as tajen, meklecan or ngadu, are required at temple and purification (mecaru) ceremonies. No one knows when they started. The Tabuh Rah ritual to expel evil spirits always has a cockfight to spill the blood. Tabuh Rah literally means pouring blood. There are ancient texts disclosing that the ritual has existed for centuries. It is mentioned in the Batur Bang Inscriptions I from the year 933 and the Batuan Inscription from the year 944 (on the Balinese calendar). The blood of the loser spills on the ground, an offering to the evil spirits. Three cockfights are necessary for this purpose. Only men participate. Women do not even watch.

To the Balinese cockfighting is much more than a religious ritual. Raffles in his History of Java commented,

“their predominant passions are gaming and cockfighting. In these amusements, when at peace with the neighbouring states, all the vehemence and energy of their character and spirit is called forth and exhausted.”

tajen balinese cockfighting

THE FIGHT

Men travel to cockfights with their roosters. They sit in a circle in the wantilan or an open area. Women sell lawar (mixed vegetables and meat), grilled pork, chicken satay, snacks and colourful drinks.

Each fight is treated equally and, as soon as one fight ends, men look for a suitable match for the next. They try to match cocks of equal ability for a good fight. The fight should be unpredictable. If there is an imbalance, the spur on the stronger bird is adjusted slightly to give him a handicap.

The expert spur affixers affix the spurs. The sharp steel spurs, called taji, are single blades, about four or five inches long, tied around the leg with string. Spurs are sharpened only at eclipses and during a dark moon and should not be seen by women. The word for cockfight, tajen, comes from tajian, the taji being the blade.

Once done the cocks are placed on the ground in the middle of the ring. The timekeeper sits at a desk on the right hand corner. He pierces a coconut with a small hole and puts it in a bucket of water. It takes about 21 seconds to sink. At the start and end he beats a kulkul, a slit drum. During this time of 21 seconds the cocks must be left alone. If they have not fought, they can be picked up and encouraged.

tajen balinese cockfighting

The process is repeated. If they still refuse to fight, both are put into a wicker cage and they always fight then. If this is not necessary and they fight on their own, as soon as one is injured, the cock that landed the blow is picked up, so that both birds are not injured.

The coconut is now sunk three times. Then the one that landed the blow is put down to walk around for another coconut sinking period. He is then picked up and the coconut is sunk twice more and the fight has to start again. The interval will have taken about two minutes, during which time the injured bird will be tended. The second round is the final one. Usually the one that landed the first bow lands another fatal blow. The loser is the one that dies first.

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