"Ngurek" - a shocking tradition of Bali

Photo: Imgarchive
The name "Ngurek" comes from the word "urek," which means "to make a hole" or "to puncture." The ritual itself is performed with a sharp dagger called a "kris," which is pressed against the chest, shoulders, neck, forehead, eyes, eyebrows, and inserted with drilling motions without causing harm to the body. In addition to the kris, this ritual can also be performed with a spear.
Photo:  @waskitanandangurah
This happens because, as claimed by the performers themselves, during Ngurek, spirits possess them and no harm can be inflicted on the body as long as the person is in a trance.
Sometimes, this ritual is also referred to as Ngunying.
Photo:  @kadek_ulong_art
This tradition originated in ancient times to showcase the superiority of soldiers and express their gratitude to the deity Ida Sang Hyang Widhi Wasa.
Legend has it that once a Balinese king decided to hold a procession to express gratitude to the supreme god. The ceremony began with cockfights, dances, and music. As the event reached its peak, warriors entered a trance and pulled out their daggers to pierce their own chests.
Photo: @helopejati
Ngurek can be divided into three stages:
1. Nusdus - Performers enter a trance using the sweet smoke from burning Sandalwood, which enhances the process.
2. Masolah - Performers dance while in a trance, accompanied by gamelan music.
3. Ngaluwur - Performers exit the trance and return to their original state.
Photo: https://kulkulbali.co/
Typically, performers in a trance state exit the inner courtyard of the temple and make circles around the temple pavilion known as "vantilan."
It is believed that only a person who has reached the pinnacle of spiritual awareness can perform this ritual. They must be physically and spiritually pure.
Performers explain that when they are in a trance, they feel as if someone is guiding their hands. However, all movements are beyond their control.
Photo: Mongabay
Balinese people believe that a spirit has entered the body when the performer's body begins to shake and tremble. The entire performance is accompanied by gamelan music. During this, the performers attempt to pierce themselves for an extended period, groaning and shouting. Remarkably, no wounds or scratches form at the point where the kris contacts the body.
Photo: Wak Laba
The ritual concludes when a priest approaches the performer, takes the dagger, and sprinkles the person with holy water.
This extreme ritual is common in Bali and is usually performed during festivals or specific ceremonies. The most prominent of these takes place in Denpasar at the Petilan Temple and is called "Pengerebongan." It occurs every 210 days, precisely 8 days after the Kuningan festival.
The temple attracts a large crowd, including foreigners interested in the unique ceremonies in Bali. With traditional Balinese ceremonial attire, one can come and witness this exceptional event.
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