' Ngurek ' - Bali's Most Extreme Tradition

January 19, 2018

'Ngurek' - Bali's Most Extreme

For many, Bali's unique and mystifying culture is reason enough to travel thousands of miles to this beautiful island for a one-of-a-kind experience. While enjoying everything that the island has to offer, most tourists would flock to see the famously popular and enticing Barong Dance, Kecak Dance or the Cendrawasih Dance, some visitors might be after something just a little bit more fascinating and intriguing. 

You may have heard of Ngurek - or you might even have glimpsed a snapshot or two of this bewitching performance on your travels. Here in this issue, we want to share what we know about Ngurek, Bali's most extreme tradition yet and why it is so special. Scroll below to learn more.

Photo by: promosibudayaku.blogspot.com

Ngurek comes from the word 'urek' which means 'to make a hole' or 'to stab', done so by using sharp weapons like the Kris, which is applied with force to the chest, neck and face without actually causing any bodily harm. This is possible as it is said that the performers' bodies are occupied by spirits during the performance, so no harm should ever come to them as long as they are in a trance. The entire performance is meant to showcase the superiority of the soldiers during the Balinese kingdom era and also show gratitude to Lord Wenang who have bestowed this ability to the performers or devotees as gifts.

Photo by: viva.com

Ngurek  can be divided into three stages namely:

  • Nusdus is when the performers go into a trance facilitated by sweet-smelling smoke from burnt Cendana wood or such, which has been said to enhance the process.
  • Masolah is when performers are dancing while being in a trance and accompanied by gamelan music.
  • Ngaluwur is when the performers come out of their trance and return to their normal conditions.

Photo by: @helopejati

The entry of spirits into the Ngurek performers can be detected when the body starts shivering and trembling. If you're watching, don't be alarmed if the performers start groaning and screeching. The entire performance will be accompanied by gamelan music and you'll see that although the stabbing is done repeatedly, there will be no blood or any scratches on the surface of the skin.

Photo by: ulinulin.com

This extreme tradition is common among the Balinese and is usually conducted on holy days or during selected ceremonies. For those of you feeling curious enough to want to watch this performance, be sure to visit the Petilan Temple in Kesiman, Denpasar, when there is 'Pengerebongan' ceremony conducted once every 210 days, 8 days after Kuningan Day. Here, you'll be sure to witness a Ngurek performance live before your very eyes.

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