Indonesia has many unique and interesting culture heritage, one of the interesting cultural heritage performance that drow in Java Island, Banten Province call it Debus. Debus is the one of Culture Heritage from Banten Province, Indonesia, the art of Debus focused more on making a persons body to be unaffected to sharp objects’ attacks.
Debus existed since about 16th century, during the reign of Sultan Maulana Hasanuddin (1532-1570) and Sultan Ageng Tirtayasa (1651-1692), it came as Islam’s teaching started to spread in Banten. The art started as a tool to spread out Islam’s teaching, but when the time of invasion of Dutch came, Debus was used to galvanize the people of Banten to fight against the colonial powers, used to raise the people’s sense of patriotism. Due to the lack of weaponry against Dutch which was well equipped and fully loaded with guns, the only “weapon” that the people of Banten have was their heritage of Debus. And they used it with their guerilla strategy.
Debus is unlike pencak silat (according the tourism service of Banten Province states), the martial art with which Debus is often associated, there is no need to learn a complicated form of movements or to study breathing exercises or meditation techniques. Debus teacher transfers the skills to the pupil because the pupil has to pay for them by fasting and conducting ascetic exercises for forty days
Debus was much simpler than it has since become. In former times, it involved only two performers. One would place a strange instrument like a giant tack, a sharp spike with a large flat wooden head, against his stomach, while the other would beat the head with a sledgehammer with all his might. The pair would then exchange roles.
In Arabic language, Debus has meaning of metal-based sharp weapon. It has a round-like pointed edge. Using this kind of tools the “players” of Debus are usually being hit numerous time without having any injuries. These are common attraction you can see in a Debus performance: Piercing a person’s stomach using sharp objects or a spear, Slicing a person’s body using a long dagger with or without leaving any scar, literally eating a flaming firewood, piercing long needles through skin, tongue, and between cheeks without staining any blood. More over they slice certain part of their body until they bleed, but instantaneously healed. They also “bathe” themselves with acid leaving their clothes deteriorate, but their skin and body aren’t damaged at all. Sometimes they chomp pieces of glasses and some other razor-sharp objects.
Nowadays, there are many Debus “warrior” live in Walantaka, Keragilan Serang area. It’s unfortunate that their quantities are decreasing through the years due to their youngsters prefer other activities as their source of living. Other causes are the fact that these performances are very dangerous. A lot of the players were injured during a performance due to lack of practice or somebody simply playing a “prank” with them. As time passes, the art became lessen.
Nowadays visitor could be watch Debus almost in all areas in Banten, especially at cultural events, rituals and other traditional festival.