Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Bali - The Barong Dance

Welcome to my first blog of 2010 and Happy New Year!

I realised that I never uploaded photos of the Barong Dance and Ubud that I took when I went to Bali in 2006. It has been a delight to revisit these pictures and memories. I took these photos with my old camera, a Fuji S3500. A 4 megapixel
little wonder!

The Barong dance is an integral part of the life of the Balinese Hindus. In their villages they learn the play from when they are little children and everyone in the village plays a part(s) and/or an instrument. They enact the dance at important religious festivals.

The dance depicts the struggle between good and evil represented by the virtuous lion, Barong and the rather hairy witch, Rangda. You can see Barong in the first photo entering the stage.

The story goes that Rangda, the mother of Erlangga, the King of Bali in the tenth century, was condemned by Erlangga’s father because she practised black magic. After she became a widow, she summoned all the evil spirits in the jungle to come after Erlangga and turned into a terrible Leyal (witch-monster). A fight occurred, but she and her black magic troops were too strong for Erlangga, so Erlangga turned into the Barong (a kind of stylized lion) who represents the good powers. Barong came with Erlangga’s soldiers, the keris dancers, and a fight ensued. Rangda cast a spell that made Erlangga soldiers want to kill themselves by pointing their poisoned keris into their own stomachs and chests. Barong cast a spell that made their body resistant to the sharp keris. In the end, Barong won, and Rangda ran away.

The playful monkey is Barong's partner

Here they are together at the beginning of the

The female dancers are very skilled. Although
Indonesia is predominantly Muslim, Bali is Hindu.
Hinduism has been present in Indonesia since
the first and second millenia of the common era.
The dance originates from India. So the Mudras
(symbolic or ritual gesture) and the dance
moves are very similar to classical Indian
sacred dance

Gorgeous costumes

One of the striking male characters, the prime

In different parts of Bali good is represented
by different protective spirits in the form of
animals, including the boar, dragon and tiger.
The Lion dance is most commonly known
because the lion is the protector of the Ubud
area where so many tourists go

The princess is taken...

.....and tied to the tree to wait for Rangda

Rangda appears and......

...the Princess struggles

The masks of Barong and Rangda are
sacred items. Before they are brought out a
priest must be present to sprinkle them
with holy water and offerings must be made

This is the god Garuda, a mythical bird-like
creature that appears in both Hinduism and
Buddhism. Garuda is the national symbol of

The warriors are bewitched by Rangda and,
in a trance, stab themselves with their
poisoned kris knives

But the Barong enters and casts a counter-spell
so that the warriors are resistant to the poison
and they recover

Good has won but evil has not been
vanquished. Our taxi driver told us that
for the Balinese Hindus there is always a
tension betweeen good and evil and that
evil can never be vanquished forever.
Otherwise how can good exist!
He also told us he had performed in the
dance the night before and had gone
into a trance. He woke up the next day
with his costume all slashed!

Of course music is an essential ingredient
of the performance.The sound is enchanting
and unique. The set of instruments is called
a gamelan. The instruments are built
and tuned to stay and be played together

These last few photos were taken
at a night peformance of bits of
the Lion Barong dance and bits
of the sacred Hindu Ramayana

The quality is not so good. The
camera struggled at low light
with no flash....(my excuse!)

....but it's not too bad,
and I love the facial
expressions of the

and the eyes and hands (the mudras)

This is a traditional Balinese instrument

Next time Ubud in Bali
Hope to see you then