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.
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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.
Good to Know about the Makepung Buffalo Races
The Makepung buffalo races usually commence early mornings at 07:30 with dozens of pairs of pepadu participating. Another hundred or so take part in the 'fashion' parade. The races last for five hours, with the buffaloes divided into three racing divisions.
The dates for each year’s event vary. However, a rough estimate is that several heats take place monthly from July to November at the various circuit locations. All usually take place over the weekends on a Sunday morning.
The tentative schedule for the 2017 Makepung buffalo races, based on the Jembrana government tourism office's announcements in February this year:
- Sunday, 16 July: Delodberawah Village Circuit
- Sunday, 30 July: Sanghyang Cerik, Tuwed Village Circuit
- Sunday, 13 August: Mertasari. Loloan Timur Circuit (Bupati Cup)
- Sunday, 27 August: Awen, Lelateng Circuit
- Sunday, 10 September: Delodberawah Village Circuit
- Sunday, 24 September: Kaliakah Village Circuit
- Sunday, 8 October: Mertasari. Loloan Timur Circuit
- Sunday, 22 October: Pangkung Dalem, Kaliakah Village Circuit
- Sunday, 5 November: Delodberawah Village Circuit
- Sunday, 19 November: Sanghyang Cerik, Tuwed Village Circuit (Jembrana Cup - FINALS)
The Makepung tradition of Jembrana inspired the creation of a Balinese dance of the same name in 1984. This dance is performed by seven to nine male and female participants, and depicts riders and the buffaloes themselves. One of the unique features of the dance is that it is accompanied by the Jegog bamboo orchestra which is also typical of the regency.