The Bali Aga village of Tenganan

The Bali Aga village of Tenganan

The Bali Aga village of Tenganan can be found 3 km inwards west from Candi Dasa on the slopes of surrounding mountains, rice fields and forest.It’s a bit hard to find due to the lack of proper signs (which you’ll encounter throughout Bali).

When we tried to find the village suddenly out of nowhere a Balinese guy on a motor bike yelled ‘Tenganan’ and pointed with his hand towards the right direction. Is it that easy to spot two tourists in shorts and flip-flops looking for Tenganan ? Don’t be surprised to see lots of tourist shops at the parking lot though, the Bali Aga here have embraced tourism as means of additional income.

The village is surrounded by solid walls and you’ll only find 4 gates, north, south, east and west. When you enter through one of the gates you’ll find identical shaped houses with a small courtyard, storage room and sleeping rooms. The village, which looks more like a museum is around 500m by 250 m large and has a rectangular shape, something you can’t find in any of the other villages on Bali.

The villagers share as much as they can with each other, there is no ownership of property or goods within the courtyard. 99% of the villagers even share the same blood group O with each other, which has let to some inbred.

Tenganan village has strict rules and regulations and because of it approximately only 300 live in the village. It used to be that those that didn’t follow the rules had to leave the village.

For instance the customary village law forbade anybody to marry outside the village, polygamy or to divorce. Because of the strict rules many have left and there’s a population growth of 0, which had led to a new interpretation of the rules so it’s OK to marry somebody from outside the village now.

The one from outside the village had to undergo a fake cremation ceremony in order to return to the village as a new Tenganan inhabitant.

On the main street you’ll find lots of caged hens in every color of the rainbow waiting for their next cock fight, some rice barns, shrines and the many pavilions where people come together to chit-chat and make decisions about the village.

It looks like a shabby village, different from other beautifully decorated Balinese villages but it is said that Tenganan is the most prosperous in east Bali or even on the entire island.

Is this because there are a lot of tourists coming to the village? It’s not because of tourism but Tenganan owns around 1000 ha of fertile rice fields on the slopes of Gunung Agung and other farmers rent their fields so the Bali Aga can focus on rituals, ceremonies and chitchatting.

Profits from the rice fields are evenly divided among the villagers and when someone makes some extra income through the sale of tourist items it can be kept as additional individual income.

This is the perfect place if you want to buy some Balinese calendars on lontar (special palm species) leaves. The women of Tenganan are famous among the Balinese for their double weaved ikat cloths, which are not difficult to miss. Every house seems to have a small sign with ‘ikat demonstration’ except for the houses at the end of the main street and the second biggest street on the right.

The women work for months on end on these cloths and the traditional ‘kamben geringsing’ has patterns, which the villagers believe were designed by God Indra himself.The Bali Aga believe they are the chosen ones from God Indra and are predominately Hindu people with a strong believe in animistic spirits just like the rest of Bali.

The difference between the other Balinese people lies in their rituals, ceremonies, music, dance and the burying of the death instead of cremation.

Even though Tenganan seems somewhat touristy, it is still worth to pay a visit.