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May 24, 2013
Cockfights are no mere pastime in Bali. They are, or are supposed to be, sacred Hindu rituals where evil spirits are appeased by the blood of the looser being spilled. Gods and spirits, many of them evil, are legion in the Hindu pantheon.

Like all forms of gambling, cockfights are illegal in Bali but tolerated when they are organised during a temple festival, often in adjacent stadiums, built for this purpose.

The taji, the sharp steel blade which is affixed to the leg of the fighting cock is considered magically powerful. Precautions have to be taken when they are forged, offerings have to be made to them on special ceremonial days.

Some attendants to the cockfight wear the Balinese ceremonial clothes of checkered sarong and headdress, but spectators are no religious devotees : their only concern is their champion winning.

Fighting cocks are pampered before the fight, exhibited to the crowd for bets to be taken and then brought down to the arena. The fight lasts a few minutes only, interrupted by the death of one of the cocks. The winner is cherished like a girlfriend. The looser is promptly feathered out and sent to the pot.