InterContinental Bali Resort unique brand concept ‘In the Know’ offers insider destination tips from the surrounding area, and beyond, to ensure that guests get the absolute most out of their holiday in Bali. There is so much to see, do, and experience on this magical little island, and the resort’s savvy ‘In the Know’ team invites guests to delve into the soul of Balinese culture, art and heritage, along with the mystic Hindu religion, in order to truly experience what defines their island home.
Located 70 kilometres (approximately two hours drive) from InterContinental Bali Resort, Tenganan is a unique 700-year-old walled village, hidden within the hills three kilometres from Candidasa in southeast Bali. Here, the 400 or so residents practise a time-honoured lifestyle based around ritual and ceremony, bound by strict ‘adat’ (customary law) practices to maintain purity. Tenganan is one of Bali’s original pre-Hindu settlements and a stronghold of native traditions. The residents are the Bali Aga people, descendants of the aboriginal Balinese who resisted the rule of the post-Majapahit kings, fiercely safeguarding and maintaining their own culture through the conviction that they are descended from the Gods.
Ceremonial longhouses, rice barns, shrines, communal pavilions and the imposing ‘bale agung’, where the ‘krama desa’ (council of elders) make their decisions, have been meticulously positioned in accordance with long-established beliefs. Three parallel cobblestone avenues run north to south, ascending towards the mountains, while narrow lanes run east to west forming a grid. Single-storey dwellings line both sides of the main street; doorways and windows have been enhanced with whimsical flair.
The Bali Aga society is communal, with a distinct social organisation. All of the village property and surrounding fertile farmland belongs to the township as a whole. The villagers do not actually work the land; instead they lease it to sharecroppers from other villages and receive half the harvest. This leaves the Tenganans free to engage in artistic activities such as weaving, dance and the sacred iron keyed gamelan ‘selonding’ music. They also faithfully adhere to a calendar of complex ceremonies and ritual trance fighting between the men, known as ‘perang pandan’ or ‘mekare-kare’, using prickly pandanus leaf whips to draw blood.
The laws of the village are elaborately inscribed with ink brewed from burnt macadamia nuts in books created from lontar palm. Yet despite the rigid protocol, it would be inaccurate to say that Tenganan has remained untouched by the influences of the outside world. The Bali Aga people may be exceptionally conservative and resistant to change, but they have embraced the tourist economy and visitors are welcomed during daylight hours. Thus the fortress-like village has become a living museum, and many of the houses also function as shops and workshops where expert craftsmen and women perform their centuries old skills. Traditional ‘ata’ vine baskets are laid out on in neat rows on the ground, and artists display their lontar carved books. Inside the workshop homes, visitors can see and purchase hand-woven fabrics. Indigenous geometric and floral motifs, and mysterious figures are merged within complex designs, created from natural dyes. These are the famous, highly valued double ikat textiles, known as ‘Geringsing’, Tenganan’s magic cloth. The women will demonstrate the weaving process using small makeshift body-tension looms with a continuous warp. Here, the intricate pattern has been tie-dyed into both the warp and the weft threads before the fabric is woven, and great skill is needed to align and loosely weave the two into the desired pattern. A single mistake will spoil years of work. The villagers believe that a powerful energy is also woven into the textile; the ritually significant cloth, used for ceremonial purposes, is said to protect the wearer from sickness and evil vibrations.
A tour to Tenganan Village can be arranged through the concierge at InterContinental Bali Resort.