Bali Swiss Villa

Monday, June 8, 2009


Another busy day today. We left early to catch the Barong dance at Batubulan. This is one of the famous Barong dance troupes, a great tourist draw, and, judging by the fancy stage, bleacher seating, and overall high quality of the production, quite a lucrative business for the local Balinese who put it on.

It was fortuitous that we'd seen the Calonarang performance the night before. The Barong is in many ways Calonarang's (Rangda's) counterpart on the light side - a mythical beast with great powers to overcome evil and black magic and restore the balance between the light and dark forces that is so important to the Balinese. The Barong is a huge shaggy-coated beast controlled by two men (front legs and back legs) - spiritually very powerful, but also playful and inquisitive like a kitten. We had seen the beautiful restored Barong at Tunjuk when we had visited Sumandhi, and had also seen a different, shorter version of this dance in Peliatan at the beginning of our trip, but this was our first full performance.

Although not apparent to Western audiences, and not made clear in the program notes given out at the performance, the Balinese will know the background of the god Siwa (the Indian Siva), one of the trinity of Hindu gods along with Brahma and Wisnu. Siwa is the destroyer, although this aspect of destruction is viewed as an integral part of the cycle of death, decay, and renewal that is essential to life on earth. Siwa's wife has many aspects each with their own name, some loving, and others an extension of the destructive aspect. Durga is one of those aspects, and definitely in the destructive camp. Queen of Witches and Goddess of Death, she is often represented as the widow Rangda or Calonarang. The underlying plot of this drama, which is an episode from the Mahabharata epic, is Siwa's wish to have his wife Durga united with him in heaven. In order to do so, she must be purified and transformed from a witch. (Many thanks, again, to Judy Slattum and her excellent book "Masks of Bali" (Chronicle Books) for her vivid explanation of this drama).


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