Tajen (Cockfight)–Which Is for Ritual and which Is for Gambling?

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Diorama of Balinese cockfighting
Diorama of cockfighting at Wantilan Hall of Taman Ayun Temple, Badung.

BALINESE community has two terms for ‘cockfighting.’, namely ‘tajen’ and ‘tabuh rah.’ Morphologically in Balinese, the word tajen comes from the form ta + taji + an, and then becomes ‘tetajen’ or ‘tajen.’ A taji is spur or a double-edged fighting knife attached to the left leg of a fighting rooster.


Related to the term tajen above, in Balinese there is also the term tabuh rah. At first glance, ordinary people might equate their meanings because these two terms refer to the same activity, namely cockfighting. But in the socio-religious context, the two terms are clearly very different. Tabuh rah is only held in connection with religious ceremonial processions, while tajen refers to entertainment or gambling.

Formulas of PHDI  

In order to be clearer about the term ‘tabuh rah,’ and to be able to distinguish which is tabuh rah and which is not, Hindu Dharma Council of Indonesia (PHDI) formulated tabuh rah (1976) with the following details:

  1. It is carried out in a series of religious ceremonies.
  2. In the form of a spill of animal blood (from a pair of roosters)
  3. Performed with panyembleh or fighting animals for three sessions, and equipped with a match of candlenut, egg and coconut along with the ceremony
  4. At the time of the cockfighting, it is accompanied with a companion (money) which means the yadnya is not gambling-motivated.
  5. At the time of the cockfighting there are no spectators, but limited to the local community (krama) who carried out the religious ceremonies and they are obliged to put on customary clothes.

Types of cockfighting

In connection with the cockfighting above, in the field there are at least three types based on the purpose of its implementation:

Firstly, tajen in the sense of tabuh rah is commonly held because it is related to the implementation of Hindu religious ceremonies, especially in temples. In Balinese, the word tabuh means ‘to spill or drip’ and rah means ‘blood.’ So when doing this activity, two roosters whose leg has been fitted with spurs will be pitted against the other, causing blood to drip.

This cockfight in Bali is internal activity so that all the participants are local residents or people and there are no outside spectators. In addition, local residents also wear customary clothes and here does not involve betting.

Secondly, tajen terang is a cockfight intentionally held in a designated venue such as an arena and aims to raise funds. There are customary villages that actually have a prarem or unwritten rules governing the procedure for this implementation. Since this is a customary event, it also involves customary security apparatus, namely pecalang and is accompanied by rituals to ask for safety.

Because this is a customary event, it is certain that all the customary people involved will wear customary clothes, while external visitors, bettors and rooster owners may not be necessarily required. This cockfighting involves betting. It is said that winning is not the main purpose in this matter, but the important thing is that they get entertainment.

Lastly, there is tajen branangan. This type of cockfighting has absolutely nothing to do with customary villages and ceremonial activities. It is purely commercial and gambling oriented.

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