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A Unique Buffalo Race in West Bali

The Mekepung attraction is held only in the Jembrana district, located in the south-west area of Bali. From Denpasar (the capital city of Bali island), it only takes one hour by car to the west. “Mekepung” is a Balinese word (the only Balinese terminology) that designates buffalo racing. People inspired by the stage of soil management, that is, to soften the soil by using a lampit slau plough. In the process of softening the soil, farmers work together with other farmers and their wives to prepare food for them. Lampit slau plough is carried by two water buffalos and they are decorated with a large gerondongan bell which rings in producing a rock music when they move. It sounds grenjeng-grenjeng. Each of these ploughs is ridden by a jockey. The jockey sits on the plough.

During the activity, one feels inspired to have a race. This is the beginning of buffalo race or mekepung, i.e., a race in power to carry the ploughs.

The first Buffalo Race or Mekepung is said to be held in the muddy rice field of Subak Pecelengan, the village of Mendoyo Dangin Tukad the subdistrict of Mendoyo, the Dictrict of Jembrana. On the run, the attraction is also done by farmers from other areas such as those who live in Subak Temuku Aya, Subak Tegak Gede, and Subak Mertasari, and then develops into a Mekepung in the muddy rice field, held in turns when they start watering the rice field.

The Buffalo Race or Mekepung Attraction developed around the year of 1930, then the jockey dressed like palace soldiers. They were barefoot, wore head dress, a scarf, a vest, and trousers with a sword wrapped in checkered patterned cloth in the waist. Because the jockey got dirty after the mekepung in the muddy rice field, then they moved the attraction to the soil road near the rice field. This developed in the year around 1960, and they formed two adverse mekepung groups. The one is called group “Ijo Gading Timur” with a red flag and the other group is named “Ijo Gading Barat” which chose green flag. Ijo Gading is the name of the river dividing the town of Negara, the capital of the Jembrana district. “Timur” means east and “Barat” means west. So the group “Ijo Gading Timur” means the group located in the east side of the Ijo Gading river, whereas the group “Ijo Gading Barat” means the group residing in the west side of the same river. Each group is fiercely defending the honour and the reputation of its own region.

They do not use lampit plough anymore, but a mini carriage decorated with beautiful carving. The jockey dresses in a traditional uniform, a batik head dress, long sleeve shirt, a vest, and a pair of trousers.

The Buffalo Racing organizer

The Mekepung organizer is called the Coordinator of the Jembrana District Mekepung. The present coordinator is Mr. I Wayan Gelgel from the village of Delodbrawah, the head of the East Ijo Gading Group is Mr. I Ketut Astawan from the village of Dauhwaru, and the head of West Ijo Gading Group is Mr. I Wayan Deken.

Each group has 100 pairs of water buffalos, each of which has a unique name such as Batu Api, Emak Lampir, Hanoman, Gerandong, Nini Pelet, Raden Bentar, Sembara, Kalagondang, etc. These names are taken from legends made popular by tv films.

The Buffalo Racing Calendar

The Buffalo Race or Mekepung Attraction can be seen, both training and actual races, in the Jembrana district of Bali on Sundays each year from July to October,. The Bupati’s Cup is held in August while the Governor’s Cup is scheduled in October. Bupati is the title of the Head of the Jembrana district government whereas Gubernur/Governor is the title of the Head of the Bali province government.




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