Barong is a panther-like creature and very important character in the Balinese mythology of Bali, Indonesia. He is the king of spirits, leader of the armies of good, and enemy of Rangda, the demon queen and mother of all spirit guarders in the mythological traditions of Bali. The battle between the barong and rangda is depicted in the barong dance to represent the eternal battle between good and evil.
Barong dance – Battle between Rangda and Barong
The barong animal mask dance, along with the Sangyong dance, are considered native Balinese dances that predate Hindu influences. Native Indonesians of Austronesian heritage often have similar mask dances representing either ancestral or nature spirits. An example is the Hudoq dance of the Dayaks or any similar bear worship practice. The term Barong is thought to have been derived from the local term bahruang, which today corresponds to the Indonesian word Beruang which means “bear”. It refers to a good spirit who took the form of an animal as the guardian of the forest.
In Balinese mythology, the good spirit is identified as Banas Pati Raja. Banas Pati Raja is the fourth “brother” or spirit child who accompanies a child throughout life, a concept similar to guardian angels. Banas Pati Raja is the spirit that brings the barong to life. A protector spirit, he is often depicted as a lion. Barong is often depicted with two monkeys.
Appearance of Barong
Barong is depicted as a red-headed lion, covered in white thick fur, and wearing gold ornaments decorated with mirror pieces. The lion barong is somewhat similar in size to the Pekingese dog. The origin of the barong goes back in time and is quite uncertain. Its origin may be traced to animist worship, before the appearance of Hinduism, when villagers still believed in the supernatural protective power of animals.
Rangda enemy of Barong
Rangda is opposite Barong. While Barong represents good, Rangda represents evil. Rangda is known as a demon queen, an incarnation of Kalon Arang, the mythical witch who wreaked havoc in ancient Java during the reign of Airlangga in the 10th century. It is said that Kalon Arang, a widow who mastered the art of black magic, often used to damage farmers’ crops and cause disease. He had a girl named Ratna Mangali, who though beautiful, could not find a husband because people were afraid of her mother. Because of the hardships his daughter faced, Calon Arang was furious and intended to take revenge by kidnapping a young girl. She brought the girl to a temple to be sacrificed to Goddess Durga. The next day, a major flood hit the village and many people were killed. Disease also appeared.
Incarnation of Kalon Arang is Rangda
King Airlang, who had heard about the matter, then asked his advisor, Empu Bharda, to deal with the problem. Then Empu Bharda sent his disciple Empu Bahula to marry Ratna. Both were married with a huge feast lasting seven days and seven nights and the situation became normal. Calon Arang had a book containing magical spells. One day, this book was found by Empu Bahula, who handed it over to Empu Bharata. As soon as Kalon Arang learns that the book has been stolen, he becomes enraged and decides to fight Empu Bharata. Without Durga’s help, Kalon Arang is defeated. Since she was defeated, the village was safe from the threat of Calon Arang’s dark magic.