The center of a classic south Bali village contains several common elements. Close by the banyan tree is often found a simply designed pavilion called a Wantilan. These structures are surprisingly plain, lacking the ornamentation that adorns so much of Balinese life and thought. Traditionally, wantilan were made with wooden pillars and thatched roofs, these are now rare but still can be found in more secluded villages.
A Wantilan is used for a variety of purposes. The members of the neighbourhood organisation (Banjar) meet here to discuss various administrative matters, temporary health clinics are set up to give the children vaccination injections, women gather here for afternoon aerobic classes. This is the place for ping pong games, gamelan practice, or general relaxation. A Wantilan is the village clubhouse.
Structures in rural Bali occasionally use living trees as structural elements. But these structures are usually small resting pavilions in the rice fields. To the left is a very unusual, much larger meeting pavilion (see the Vespa at the left corner).
A Wantilan is most lively and generates the most excitement when it is used as the site for a ritual cock fight, called Tajen. With the exception of a few women selling snacks to the participants, this is a man’s event, a time for social theatre and display. It is a fight to the death for the roosters and it allows men the experience of warfare vicariously, it allows them to be warrior without actually going to war.