Geringsing is the traditional textile in Bali, Indonesia. This particular textile is only used on special occasions. Not only is it used on special occasions, but it is also specially made. You can only find it in particular area in Bali and it takes 5 years for one piece of cloth to be woven. From dyeing the thread to the process of weaving, it all takes a minimum of 2 upto 5 years for one cloth to be made. A process that is reminiscent of double ikkat.
History of Geringsing
This textile is really special and specifically for ceremonial occasions. It is only found in Tenganan. The first step to making is that lengths of thread are lined up and dyed according to a pattern in varying colours of red, black to white for a year. The cloth will then be ‘tied’ down by other threads during the process. What results is a beautiful, iconic and culturally significant piece of cloth.
According to those who have worked on it, Geringsing requires a lot of hard work. Just one mistake and years of hard work can be gone in an instant. For that reason it takes a lot of patience and attentiveness to detail.
The origin of Geringsing itself comes from the legend of Dewa Indra. There was a time in Tenganan’s history when it was ruled by a cruel and brutal king named Maya Denawa. It was said that he declared himself a God and forbade the Bali people from practicing their religion. Angry at this treatment, the Gods became angry. So they sent Dewa Indra to lead a battle against the king. After heavy battle, Maya Denawa was defeated and Dewa Indra took control.
One night, he became so entranced by the beauty of the night sky that he asked the women to immortalise the view on a piece of cloth. That was how the Geringsing came to be.
Even now Geringsing is considered a local specialty and knowledge of creating one has not been shared with the world. It is usually worn by the people during special occasions, when praying and other important life events. The word ‘gring’ means sick and ‘sing’ means not in their local language. Its magical properties are said to prevent the wearer getting ill or having bad luck. Many years ago, researchers have also found that geringsing used to be dyed with human blood. This strengthened the locals’ belief that it can ward off evil and harm to those who wore it.
Interesting Facts about Geringsing
- As time goes by, Geringsing’s color becomes more beautiful.
- All of the dyes used to create the color in geringsing are natural from kemiri, nut oil, wood ash, Indigo tinctoria or the root of sunti plant.
- The tenganan people use the cloth on all occasions from the day they were born, important age milestones, marriage, giving birth and even to death.
- Women who are menstruating cannot weave their geringsing textile.
- Dyeing the thread takes a long amount of time as it needs to be soaked for a complete year. Yet the hard work pays off with stronger and softer thread after the soaking period.
Have you seen samples of the Gerinsing? What other ethnic textiles of Indonesia are you aware of? Please do share your opinion in the comments section below.