Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Debus Banten

After enchanting the mantra “I forbid you to touch my skin, I forbid you to drink my blood, I forbid you to consume my flesh, strains strong as led, bones as strong as steel, skins of metal, out of my mother’s I was born. I testify that there’s no other God beside Allah!”. At the same time, he pierced a long dagger on to his arms, stomach, thigh, and other parts of his body. He even grab a small child and slashed his neck without leaving any scar that could endanger the child’s life.

The attraction was known as Debus. It was said that the ancient art originated from a certain region called al Madad. The art evolved as time passes and developed through out the people of Banten as a form of entertainment. The essence of the art still shows a lot of martial art moves as well as the use of weapons. The art of Debus focused more on making a persons body to be unaffected to sharp objects’ attacks. Debus existed for more than hundred years. It came as Islam’s teaching started to spread in Banten. The art started as a tool to spread out Islam’s teaching, but when the time of invasion of Holland came—also when the Great Sultan Agung Tirtayasa ruled the land—the art was used to rise the people’s sense of patriotism. Due to the lack of weaponry against Holland which was well equipped and fully loaded with guns, the only “weapon” that the people of Banten have was their heritage of Debus. And they used it with their guerilla strategy.

In the Arabic language, Debus has the meaning of metal-based sharp weapon. It has a round-like pointed edge. Using this kind of tools the “players” of Debus are usually being hit numerous time without having any injuries. These are common attraction you can see in a Debus performance: Piercing a person’s stomach using sharp objects or a spear, Slicing a person’s body using a long dagger with or without leaving any scar, literally eating a flaming firewood, piercing long needles through skin, tongue, and between cheeks without staining any blood. More over they slice certain part of their body until they bleed, but instantaneously healed. They also “bathe” themselves with acid leaving their clothes deteriorate, but their skin and body aren’t damaged at all. Sometimes they chomp pieces of glasses and some other razor-sharp objects.

In doing so, players have to fulfill certain terms and conditions. They have to perform a ritual led by their master. Usually they have to do it 1-2 weeks before the performance. Players must have a strong faith in Islam teaching. There are several forbidden things for them in order to safely perform Debus. They are: Not to drink liquors of any kind, not to gamble, not to submit to lust for women, and not to steal. Players are to act without hesitation. Any form of dishonoring the terms and conditions could bring the players life at stake. According to history, Debus has a very close connection to Islam’s teaching. The essence is very ample with religious philosophy. If God permit for such thing—unable to be hurt by sharp objects or even by bullet—than anything is possible.

Nowadays, there are many Debus “warrior” live in Walantaka, Keragilan Serang area. It’s unfortunate that their quantities are decreasing through the years due to their youngsters prefer other activities as their source of living. Other causes are the fact that these performances are very dangerous. A lot of the players were injured during a performance due to lack of practice or somebody simply playing a “prank” with them. As time passes, the art became lessen. In the old times, we could watch Debus almost in all areas in Banten, but now we can only see it in certain event. It’s a heritage which has been crushed by the flow of time.

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