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Getting to Know ‘Perang Obor’, a Unique Tradition of the Jepara Community

Perang obor, locally known as "obor-oboran," is one of the traditional ceremonies held by the people of Jepara Regency, particularly in Tegalsambi Village, Tahunan District, Jepara Regency. The people of Tegalsambi Village regularly hold the perang obor tradition every Monday of the Javanese calendar month of Pahing, on the Tuesday night of the Pon day in the month of Dzulhijjah according to the Javanese or Arabic calendar, annually.


Perang obor features the action of striking coconut leaves and dried banana leaves that have been set on fire. Although the procession is quite dangerous, this tradition is still preserved and continues to attract the attention of local residents as well as tourists from outside Jepara.


In the perang obor procession, the event begins with the ignition of coconut leaves and dried banana leaves by traditional leaders or invited guests. The participants then strike the torches from the burning coconut leaves and dried banana leaves. The sparks will naturally cause spectators nearby to move away.

During the perang obor procession, various offerings with special meanings are also prepared, such as buffalo heads as a symbol of gratitude and protection against calamity. Tumpeng, representing the relationship between humans and God on the top, while the bottom represents the relationship between humans, and many more.


The origin of the perang obor tradition in Jepara is inseparable from the story of the rivalry between two community figures in ancient times, namely Kiai Babadan and Mbah Gemblong. Kiai Babadan asked for Mbah Gemblong's help to take care of his cattle and buffalo. However, Mbah Gemblong did not fulfill this request and instead was busy fishing in the Kembangan River.


This caused many of Kiai Babadan's cattle and buffalo to become sick and die. Seeing this, Kiai Babadan became angry. He then reprimanded Mbah Gemblong. However, feeling ignored, Kiai Babadan took a torch normally used to repel mosquitoes and struck Mbah Gemblong with it. Mbah Gemblong, who was displeased, retaliated. Thus, a confrontation ensued, with both using torches to strike each other. Strangely, the animals that were previously sick became healthy after running out of the stables.


Since then, in addition to being held to preserve local culture, the perang obor tradition is also believed to ward off all forms of danger that could bring disaster to the surrounding residents. This tradition is also held as an expression of gratitude for the blessings bestowed by God.

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