The unique culture in Bali named Makepung

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Makepung is not only taken part in by farmers but also workers and entrepreneurs from the city who often come by and support the event. (photo: IO/Prive. Doc)

IO – Island of Bali has become a tourist icon in Indonesia with its natural beauty and culture that is able to attract the attention of domestic and foreign tourists. It is one of the regions in Indonesia that has a variety of interesting cultures and is able to give a different appearance than other regions. Some traditions that are quite popular in the island of the Gods are cemeteries in the village of Trunyan, War of pandanus (mekare-kare) in Tenganan, Omed-omedan and the Mecca of the tradition is closely related to religious beliefs for Hindus in the village concerned. Another tradition that is quite interesting and related to the activities of farmers is the Makepung tradition. Makepung is a buffalo race where the Jembrana people call Makepung as the traditional “grand prix” of the Balinese people. If Madura has a cow, Bali has makepung. Two traditions that are similar, but not the same and a unique spectacle that is fresh and entertaining. Makepung which means chasing in Indonesian is a tradition in the form of a buffalo race that has long been attached to the Balinese people, especially in Jembrana Regency.

This tradition was originally just a game of farmers who carried it out on the sidelines of plowing rice fields during the harvest season. At that time, they collided quickly with a buffalo spur which was linked to a cart and controlled by a jockey. With time, initially a fun activity, it developed and became increasingly popular amongst many people. Now, Makepung has become one of the most interesting and widely watched cultural attractions by tourists, including local tourists. Not only that, this buffalo race has become an annual tourism agenda in Bali and managed professionally. Makepung is usually held after the harvest season, when the fields are dry (around April, May, or June) in Jembrana Regency. Now, Makepung is not only followed by farmers. Many employees and entrepreneurs from the city become participants or simply supporters. Moreover, in a big battle, the Cup Governor for example, the buffaloes included can be more than 300 pairs.

The atmosphere was very lively with the presence of jegog musicians (Balinese gamelan made of bamboo) to enliven the atmosphere of the race. Makepung began to be contested in the 1970s. Now, the rules and completeness in Makepung also change. For example, a buffalo that was once only one is now a pair. Then, cikar or carts for jockeys that were once large, are now replaced with smaller ones. Furthermore, the participants of the Makepung buffalo are now more “fashionable” with a variety of decorations in the form of crowns mounted on the head of the buffalo and green or red flags in each cikar. Meanwhile, the Makepung arena itself is in the form of a “U” track along 1–2 km. In contrast to Madura cattle races or other race-like traditions, Makepung has a slightly unique rule. The winner of this contest is not only determined by whom or which buffalo pair reaches the finish line for the first time, but also determined by the distance between the participants who are competing.

That is, a participant will be considered a winner if he is the leader when he finishes and is able to keep distance from the participants behind him, as far as 10 meters. However, if the buffalo pair behind it can narrow the distance to less than 10 meters, then the buffalo pair behind will be the winner. Matches are completed in a matter of eight to ten minutes in each race. Fans and participants of the Makepung in Jembrana are divided into two groups known as the West and Eastern Blocs. The division of this block is based on the flow of the Ivory Ijo River which divides the State, the capital city of Jembrana Regency. The two blocks will meet in an official race every two weeks. And, each block has its own circuit which is often used as a training location or an official race.

The unique thing that makes Makepung an exciting and interesting spectacle is the expression of a jockey who is on top of the cikar and is encouraging his two buffaloes by shouting chants from their respective regions. The jockey whips the buffalo with a stick during a race on a 2 meter wide track to reach maximum speed. Some jockeys also use special sticks with small nails attached. So it is not surprising that buffaloes competing blood after participating in this competition. To witness this tradition, we don’t have to pay anything. If you want to travel to Bali, this alternative entertainment can be used as a reference to better understand the cultural diversity found on the island of Bali. (Aldo)