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Pictorial: Balinese Cockfighting
by Maciej Tomczak, November 2005

Despite its 1981 ban, cock-fighting (Tajen) is very much alive in Indonesia.  On Bali, it is an integral part of religious ceremonies - blood spilled during the fight is thought to placate the ambivalent spirits: Bhuta and Kala.

Balinese men take pride in grooming and training the roosters until they reach 6-12 months and are ready to fight.  It includes trimming the wattles which makes them sleeker when it counts.

The cockfights, judged by juru dalam - an esteemed local dignitary, take place in a wentilan, an arena usually not far from the village temple.  Just before the fight, the opponents have razor-sharp spurs (taji) affixed by twine to one of their legs.  An event consists of some 10 fights, each lasting for up to 5, few-minute-long rounds.  Cocks that refuse to spar are forced under a large, bottomless basket to bring them closer and prevent escape.

There are two circles of betting:  the official one with bets in the range of 20 to 300 thousand rupiahs where the winner doubles the money remitting 10% to the organizer/temple, and one-to-one betting with negotiable wagers and odds.  As the fight commences, the frenzied audience call the expected winner by the colour of its plumage and show the amount they wish to bet on it using fingers.  Bets, called in defunct Dutch ringgits (but paid in rupiahs), are settled in cash quickly after the match and with no arguments.

The fights are mercifully quick, typically ending in the decease of one or both animals from injuries.

The owner of the winning cock gets the body of the loser.


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