Candi Dasa is also the perfect base for an Exploration of the fastcinating village of Tenganan, home of a pre-Hindu Bali Aga tribe. Located several kilometres inland , in a hilly area of lush bamboo forests and mystical banyan trees, Tenganan was for some reason never assimilated to the island’s Hindu-Balinese culture and has retained its own traditions of architecture, kinship, government, religion, dance and music, supplying the rest of the island with several valuable items, notably the sacred geringsing fabrics.
The main village is rectangular and enclosed by walls, with tall gates at the four cardinal points. Only about 200 families live here and the living compounds are all arranged symmetrically around two die, terraced stone lanes – a design principle used in many primitive megalithic areas of Indonesia such as Sumba and Nias. There are central meeting pavilions, and the strong sense of community and a ready defence against the outside world. Indeed, until recently, no outsiders were permitted, and most villagers stil seem rather ambivalent about the intrusion of foreigners, despite the fact that several operate shops selling drinks as well as handicrafts.
The villagers own, communally, large tracts of cultivated land but traditionally the fields were worked by the residents of neighbouring villages. The Tenganese, meanwhile, concerned themselves primarily with the production of tuak bayu palm beer and kamben geringsing cloths. The latter, much sought after throughout Bali, is a fabric believed to immunize the wearer against evil influences and disease.
Tenganan is also famous for its annual usaba sembah festival, when many unusual ceremonies, dances and musical perfromaces are held, including the perang pandan (pandanus-leaf wars) and the palying of the gamelan selunding (an iron metallophone orchestra).
Explore the village quietly, and if offered, take the opportunity of observasing one of the learned village elders producing illustrated lontar palm-leaf books in the old-Balinese script. Books such as these were once used throughout India and Southeast Asia. Walk up behind the village to an old, back-roofed temple shaded by two huge banyan trees, and continue on for lovely walks through the countryside to adjacent village.
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