‘MEKEPUNG’ Bull races tradition in jembrana west of bali island


Bali has a wealth of bull races. This racing tradition is a large deal in the town of Jembrana, Negara regency, even taking on the official championships designation as the Governor’s Cup or ‘Piala Bupati’. The festival usually kicks off with various heats around the coastal race tracks of Jembrana in the month of July, leading up to the finals and festivities occurring mid-November. The tradition traces back to the legacies of the Jembrana farmers, and during the festivities various other art forms of the locality are performed as well, such as bull fashion shows and Jegog bamboo orchestras.

Makepung is the name of a major grand prix in Jembrana, West Bali, which features racing buffalo races. Hundreds of pairs of buffaloes are teamed up together with their jockeys riding the traditional wooden ploughs that are slightly modified for the competition.

The racer buffaloes, called kerbau pepadu, compete in various open race circuits in assorted heats around the district of Melaya, leading up to the finals, or what has come to be known as the Jembrana Regent’s Cup, and the Governor’s Cup, held annually.

Makepung is derived from the base word of kepung, meaning ‘chase’, similar to the expression ‘steeplechase’. Makepung is one of the unique traditions stemmed from the agrarian life scene of the island, and is a widely enjoyed event in the regency of Jembrana, west Bali.

The grand-scale events inspired from such a simple, traditional pastime preserves the unique traditions of this part of the island, as well as to promote tourism to this far flung western location. The competitions also provide positive impact on other local sectors such as agriculture and farming.

The tradition has partly prevented the shift of land for farming use, and it has also encouraged the people to improve the quality of animal husbandry, raising winning buffaloes for the yearly events.

There are approximately seven different circuits spread out in various locations throughout the district. The Sangyang Cerik circuit in the village of Tuwed, Melaya district is one of the main circuits. The other dedicated fields-turned-circuits include Delod Berawah, Kaliakah, Pangkung Dalem, Merta Sari, Tuwed and Awen.

On the eve of the finals, there is a gathering among the racing teams called sekaa makepung with the Jembrana regent, and the evening is as festive as the major racing day that follows, being filled with art performances and public entertainment.

On race days, international visitors will also be equally amused by the ‘buffalo fashion shows’ that feature the bovines beautifully and carefully dressed up with ornaments from hoof to horn, in another segment of the ‘best-dressed’ competitions.

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