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Published on April 20, 2014

The province of Banten, located immediately west of Jakarta, will hold a thrilling Festival called the Banten Debus Festival 2014 to take place from early June reaching its pinnacle on 21 June 2014. It will be held along the Anyer Beach stretch facing the Krakatau volcano in the Sunda Straits.

Debus is the traditional martial art unique to Banten that is imbued with supernatural powers where actors, – called Jawara – can stab themselves with sharp daggers or pierce their face with lances, and yet emerge completely unscathed as if invulnerable.

Accompanying the Debus will also be drum festival – called rampak bedug – played by huge throngs so as to be registered in Indonesia’s Book of Records, MURI. The parade will proceed from the Market at Anyer to the Old Lighthouse. Through this Festival, it is envisaged that tourism to Banten will be able to grow by leaps and bounds.

Additionally, a visit to Banten’s unique Lighthouse will be made together with a seminar on the history and culture of Banten. To enliven the event, there will be music stages played well into the night, an exhibition and stalls on Banten’s culinary presentations and other folk festivities.

Debus performances used to be held through generations ever since the 16th century during the reign of Sultan Maulana Hasanuddin (1532-1570) and Sultan Ageng Tirtayasa (1651-1692). Debus was then used to galvanize the people of Banten to fight against the colonial powers.

Debus is a fusion of skills that include supernatural powers, music, dance and martial art. It is a competition of prowess in invulnerablity of the performers (known as jawara) that is both scary and mesmerizing to watch. Through the art of Debus, the jawara can pierce sharp nails through their tongue, cheeks or other parts of their body. They can roll over sharp shards of glass or mirrors, light fire on their body, cut parts of their body with a sharp knife or machete, throw mercury over their torso, walk on nails or burning coal, and do other gruesome acts, yet leaving no single trace of blood, scars or even pain.

The word Debus is derived from the Arab word ‘dablus’ which is a sharp iron lance that has a round handle as its base. Although other such feats are also found in a number of other provinces in Indonesia, including in Aceh, North Sumatra, West Sumatra and Singkawang in West Kalimantan, yet most respected and feared is the Debus of Banten.

Debus is now often performed at cultural events, rituals and other traditional festivitites.

Anyer Beach and Carita Beach in Banten are a two-hours ride from Jakarta. . A wide toll road stretches from the capital all the way to the western–most end of Java. There are many hotels along Anyer Beach and Carita Beach.

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