Cockfighting, also known locally as Tajen, has been granted permission to become a cultural attraction in the Gianyar Regency in Bali. The development comes with a strict condition; however, events can only go ahead provided there is no gambling or ‘transactions’.
Indonesia has a strict zero-tolerance stance on gambling of any kind, however, there have been widespread reports that cockfighting across Indonesia accommodates under-the-table betting.
The Chairman of the Bali Regional People’s Representative Assembly (DPRD), I Gusti Putu Budiarta, has granted a Gianyar Regency Council permission to promote cockfighting events as a cultural attraction. Chairman Budiarta said, ‘In my opinion, as long as Tajen is used as a cultural attraction, there is no problem. The problem now in society is that Tajen is synonymous with gambling. Gambling is clearly against the constitution’.
He continued to say that Tajen, cockfighting, is a cultural attraction, especially in ceremonies such as Tabuh Rah. The ritual involves the ceremonial spilling of blood. Traditionally this is performed by three cockfights to appease the spirits before a major temple ceremony. Tubuh means to ceremoniously spill, and rah means blood in Balinese. Chairman Budiarta confirmed that cockfighting in these cases is permitted, provided no gambling takes place.
The local leader explained to reporters, ‘What often happens in the community Tajen is identical with betting, and this is still contrary to the Article 303 Criminal Code…[but if it is] to become a cultural attraction enjoyed by international and domestic tourists. I’m sure it won’t be a problem. He confirmed that he backed the move to promote Tajen and Tubuh Rai as a cultural attraction. ‘If you really want to create a cultural attraction without any elements of betting…We put the stakes aside,’ he said.
While cockfighting is a deep-set cultural tradition, there is uncertainty as to whether international visitors, in particular, will enjoy observing the practice. In recent years there has been a huge increase in public awareness regarding the welfare of animals in tourist attractions.
Although Tajen and Tubuh Rah will always remain a religious and cultural practice, there may be kickback from international tourism providers who have pledged to boycott attractions that are perceived to compromise the welfare of animals. Travelers keen to experience local culture and gain a unique insight into the day-to-day life of Balinese people, particularly of local men, will appreciate the permission to access these local events.
The question now is whether more cockfighting events will be held in order to facilitate public interest or whether visitors will simply be invited to observe religious ceremonies. For some travelers, domestic and international, it is a tricky line to tread; respecting the ancient culture and conserving differing personal values and beliefs.
That being said, some temples in Bali have created a novel way to conduit Tubuh Rah without using cockerels. In a clip shared by BasaBali, the online Balinese Dictionary, Pura Alus Arum used three caster bean leaves with bamboo spurs attached to symbolize the spilling of blood. They throw the leaves into a cockfighting ring, and the fight is over when one of the leaves is ripped by the opposing leaf’s spur.
Cockfighting has been illegal in Indonesia since 1981, but many regions continue on cultural and religious grounds. Cockfighting remains most prevalent in Bali, but the practice goes ahead across the country. Despite being illegal many local authorities, such as Gianyar, openly approve the practice to continue on cultural grounds, provided there is no gambling.
As a nation, Indonesia is keen to preserve its cultural heritage and stamp out practices that are deemed to be against the public good, like gambling. Authorities in Bali are quick to act on any reports of gambling on the island. On the 17th of August, Bali police arrested a team of nine people who had been running two illegal gambling websites from an office in Denpasar.
In June this year, police raided a newly opened sports bar in Seminyak after they got a tip-off that the owners and staff were soliciting bets on horse racing. During the raid, police discovered evidence of organized gambling, including a laptop, TV, manual recap of bets, and IDR 22,400,000 USD 1,508) in cash.