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Taking the Devil Out of the Kids in Bali

Unique Ceremony in Village North of Ubud, Bali Sees Local Youths Paint Themselves in Technicolor Dreams

(5/26/2013) On May 1, 2013, the unique “Ngerebeg” ceremony, held once every six months, was again celebrated in the traditional village of Tegallalang, north of Ubud. The actual date of its celebration is determined by the convergence of several cycles of months, weeks and days in the Balinese calendar, or, put into local terms, on “rahina budha kliwon pegat uwakan.”

The “Ngerebeg” is generally reserved for teenagers who decorate their bodies and faces using water-based paints. The resulting looks are, to say the least, extreme with teenagers, primarily young men, resembling punk stars, ghosts and menacing demons – all temporary members of platoon in the service of the ancient Balinese king I Gusti Ngurah Gede Pecangakan who reigned in the 15th century - seen as a heroic protector of Bali.

The colorful parade begins with lunch at the local temple followed by a processional parade with the grotesquely painted participants carry flagstaffs of penjors for a distance of 2-3 kilometers, the distance between two local temples.

The parade participants, in keeping with local tradition, make offerings at designated points along the route intended to protect the village and its inhabitants.

Local village officials in Tegallalang insist that villagers hold the event year after year, frightened that a failure to honor the tradition would bring misfortune upon the community. On a more basis level, "Ngerebeg" observances are seen as purifying the local people and their surroundings prior to piodalan ceremonies marking the anniversary of the village’s main temple.

The Windsor Star (Canada) carried an excellent set of photos from the most recent Ngerebeg celebration in Tegallalang available via the link below.

[Windsor Star Ngerebeg Photos