According to legend, the people of Tenganan Pegringsingan were selected by the Hindu god of storms and warfare Indra to administer a territory that was conceived in accordance with his divine plan to be a microcosm of the world. They were instructed to use every means to keep it pure and clean. The concept of territorial, bodily and spiritual purity and integrity is of paramount importance in the village.

Another variation of this legend is of the magical horse Uccaisrawa, of King Udayana, ruler of the 11th century kingdom of Bedahulu. The horse was to be sacrificed but escaped. The king was distraught and sent search parties out to find him. A group of trusted servants, men from the Peneges family were assigned to search the eastern area of the island in the area of Karangasem. The king had promised a huge reward to whoever found Uccaisrawa, however when they did find him, he had died of exhaustion.

The king rewarded the finders with the land for as far as the smell of the dead horse could be detected. The men of Peneges dismembered the horse and carried the parts to various places around the place where the horse had died. Unknown to the king’s men, the Peneges men had hidden portions of dead horse into their clothes, so the rotten smell followed them everywhere until the king’s men decided it was enough land and left.

The Peneges men brought their families to the place called ngetengahang which means “to move to the middle”, a valley now known as Tenganan Pegringsingan. It also is named after the double ikat geringsing cloth that Indra taught the women to weave. It sparkled with star motifs that emulated his divine realm.

The people of Tenganan Pegringsingan are called ‘Bali Aga’ the original Balinese. They descend from the pre-Majapahit kingdom of Bedahulu. There are strict rules as to who is allowed to live in the village. Only those born in the village can stay in the village and become full members of the community. There are rules regarding marriage and anyone who marries outside of the village has to leave. A strict protocol regarding marriages among the kin groups have steered the Tengananese through the genetic perils of intermarriage although with increasing contact with the outside world these rules have relaxed somewhat.