Barong, Bali’s mythical creature

Long ago, it was said that an evil witch terrorised the people with her wicked witchcraft. Only the sacred guardian, Barong, could fight on a level with her. But every time she is defeated, she returns. And Barong’s fight continues to this day.

The Barong is Bali’s mythical creature. According to folklore, the Barong is a symbol of righteousness and justice. Barongs are commonly depicted as lions, cows, or dragons. A Barong consists of two parts: the head and the body. The head is considered most sacred, carved from the wood of pule trees growing in temple courtyards. Once the wood has been extracted, it is blessed by a priest and given to a particular sculptor. The sculptor then starts crafting, producing an in temples, apart from the body. The mask is conjoined with the body and used in a dance on special occasions.

The Barong dance is one of the most sacred dances in Bali. It was usually only conducted during special ceremonies, but now, some places hold daily Barong dances for tourist consumption. It takes two people to animate a Barong, one animating the head and the other the body. The Barong dance tells the story of Rangda, an evil witch the people feared. Barong then rides into battle with his army to bring the wicked witch to justice. During the dance, dancers are put in a trance where they start stabbing themselves due to Rangda’s witchcraft. But they are not hurt because Barong casts protective magic on them. Once the spell is over, Barong and his supporters finally overthrow Rangda. But she does not die. Instead, she reincarnates, and Barong must defeat her again. The fight never stops and symbolises the light’s eternal strife against darkness.

In villages, children or young people often do small Barong shows door-to-door during special ceremonies, such as Galungan. This is known as ngelawang and is a fun way to see informal Barong dances. Don’t forget to give a small donation!