Balinese mythology is often illustrated through dance. Bali’s traditional Barong dance is a mythical story about good versus evil and provides a fascinating insight into Balinese culture.
Barong is the good spirit and looks quite lion-like. He has a red head and his body is covered in white hair. His head is adorned with jewels and pieces or mirror providing sparkle. Despite his innate goodness the Barong mask can still look a bit frightening.
Barong’s appearance is nothing as scary as that of Rangda however. Rangda is the evil spirit. She is portrayed as a witchcraft-practising widow. Her appearance features more black symbolising her evil nature, she has whopping great teeth and when she moves on stage she moves with a creepy gait.
|Rangda mask from Bali's Barong dance|
Good vs. evil
The story, in a nutshell, goes that after becoming a widow Rangda summoned evil spirits to attack her son Erlangga. When a fight ensued between Erlangga and Rangda’s demons Erlangga, realising he would be defeated, called on Barong for help.
Barong came with Erlangga’s soldiers and a fight ensued. Rangda resorted to dirty tricks and cast a spell on Erlangga’s soldiers making them want to stab themselves to death with their own poisoned swords. Barong averted disaster by casting a protective spell that made the bodies of the soldiers resistant to the sharp and poisonous weapons. Barong won the fight and Rangda ran away.
|Barong working his magic to protect the soldiers from Rangda's spell|
There is a lot more to the story which features many different twists and turns as well as lots of other characters, but the moral lessons stem from this central story.
The Barong and Rangda masks are considered sacred and before each outing they are sprinkled with holy water by a priest and offerings must be presented.
The Barong dance performance that I saw was shown just south of Ubud and traditional costumes and props were used. The dance music was performed by a live orchestra that sat to the left of the stage. It was a noisy and at some times confusing performance, but a fantastic introduction to Bali’s exotic culture.
Have you seen traditional dances on your travels? What did you think?
This post was sponsored by Flightcentre.com.au who offer cheap flights to Bali but, as always, all opinions are my own.