Tradition of Tiban: The Whipping Ritual for Rain in East Java

Exploring the Cultural Significance and Practices of Tiban in East Java - The Tiban tradition is an art form that has developed in several regions in East Java, such as Blitar, Kediri, and Trenggalek.

Tiban tradition is a whipping ritual between two adult men in an arena. Interestingly, this art form is held as part of an effort to pray for rain during a long drought.

This tradition is specifically reserved for men who will whip each other under the guidance of a referee called a "peladang."

With the accompaniment of Javanese gamelan music, each fighter will whip their opponent's body using a whip made of bamboo or rattan.

Each Tiban player will have the opportunity to strike their opponent three times using the whip. The whip is made of a bundle of rattan rods, approximately 15 rods twisted together. Some parts are given suli, which is a binding made of woven palm leaf skin or finely woven bamboo skin.

Due to its communal nature and the fact that Tiban is not primarily intended for entertainment, there is no clear boundary between spectators and players. The arena is created by the spectators themselves, who stand or squat in the front to form a circle.

As for clothing, Tiban participants only wear pants and are not allowed to wear shirts. To prevent any harm, players are not allowed to whip each other's heads or genitals.

A Deep Dive into Tiban: The Traditional Rain-Seeking Whipping Ritual of East Java

In addition to requiring great courage, participants in the Tiban tradition must also have fighting skills.

Interestingly, despite bruises and even bleeding, the fighters claim not to feel pain. They believe that the more blood flows, the heavier the rain will be. No one knows exactly when this tradition began, but it is estimated that Tiban has been around for thousands of years.

During the reign of the authoritarian King Prabu Kertajaya in the Kediri kingdom, the people obeyed his orders not out of obedience but out of fear. The Kediri Kingdom, including the Ngimbang region (now Ngadiluwih), had four districts: Ngimbang, Megalamat, Jimbun, and Ceker.

Along with the authoritarian nature of the king, changes occurred in Kediri. The once prosperous region with full village granaries gradually depleted and almost disappeared due to the prolonged drought. The farmers were unemployed because their fields could not be cultivated, and the rivers dried up. The dry season seemed endless. Every effort was made to obtain water, but it was only enough for drinking and cooking.

The wise men concluded that the long-lasting drought was a curse on humans due to their lack of belief and piety toward higher powers.

Therefore, the local leaders consulted with the Pinisepuh (respected elders) and proposed various suggestions and opinions to lift the curse. The people of Ngimbang contributed what little they had left for the implementation of the traditional ceremony. Those who still had rice donated a bundle, and those who owned cattle brought their whips as a symbol of their wealth.

Once everything was prepared, the people communicated with supernatural powers, seeking forgiveness from the higher power.

As part of the ritual, the community tortured themselves and basked in the scorching sun. Since this method was still not effective in communicating with supernatural forces, self-torture was intensified using whips made of Sodo Aren (rattan from the fruit-bearing sugar palm tree).

During the ceremonial procession, the participants took turns whipping each other. Naturally, there was a lot of bloodshed in this game, but due to their deep focus, they did not feel the pain.

In this religious atmosphere, rain fell out of season. This kind of rain is called Hujan Tiban. The people of Ngimbang, along with the Pinisepuh, were overjoyed, expressing their gratitude for this blessing. This event became known as Tiban, and the local community has continued the tradition from generation to generation.