The Island Of Bali, Indonesia



Rangda and Barong. The origin of the fascinating Rangda is now confused, fantastic myth, a sample of which is the following tale as it was told to me bv an old man of Den Pasar:

A concubine of King Erlangga gave birth to a pair of pigs, a dreadful omen of approaching calamity. The Brahrnanas were consulted and they advised turning the pigs loose in the forest. The pigs played havoc with the trees, and to prevent further destruction, Sanghyang Berawi (Begawati) turned them into two beautiful women, whom she named Tjumpu Mas and Tanting Mas. She gave them a small book of lontar palm and ordered them to study the powerful magic formulas contained in it.

Tjumpu Mas decided to remain in the jungle, keeping the book with her, but Tanting Mas went to the country of Lemah Tulis, where she married the holy man Begawan Mpu Gandu. " Because the holy man could not bear the fire of Tanting Mas," he went to live in the forest as a hermit. There he met an endeh, the dancing flame of a witch, that turned out to be "Tjumpu Mas, his wife's sister, now a proficient witch. So impiessed was the holy man with her beauty that he married her on the spot, but on the following day, when he went to perform his daily purification, he found among his cleansing paraphernalia the entrails of a corpse, freshly dug out of the cemetery by T'jumpu Mas.

Enraged at the profanation, the priest declared a magic war on the witch and turned into a great cremation tower to intimidate her. She became fire that consumed the tower, leaving her a rangda, a widow. The Rangda later be-came pregnant, changed her name to Sitowalu (also meaning " widow and lived on as queen of the forest of Alas Trung in the country of Dirah, becoming known as the " Widow from Dirah " (Rangda ning Dirah, or Girah). Her child was born in the jungle and grew up to be the famed beauty Ratna Menggali.

There are many varied versions of the tale, in one of which Tanting Masand Tjumpu Mas are the result of the dreaded male and female twins, Tanting Masthe male who struggles with his twin sister for supremacy, becoming Banaspati Radja, "Lord of the Jungle," the Barong's name. This would explain the origin of the Rangda and Barong if it were not for the fact that the Balinese are thoroughly confused in regard to their identity; I have been told that Erlangga himself turns into a Barong to fight Rangda and that Batara Budda and the Barong are the same.

It is obvious, nevertheless, that they are not purely Balinese: Rangdas are unknown in the oldest villages and the character and appearance of the witch presents a striking similarity with the wildeyed, fanged demons of Tibet and northern India, where Tantric Buddhism holds sway. In Nepal there is a long-haired devil called lakahe who dances like Rangda, holding a white cloth which it uses as weapon. Both the Rangda and the Barong seem to belong to the Tantric Buddhist lore, perhaps to the now disappeared Bhairawa sect that flourished in Bali in Erlangga's time.

Bhairawa Buddhism remains the deliverance element in the HinduBalinese religion, a short cut to the release of the soul from the cycle of reincarnations, attained not by simple propitiation of gods, but by direct control of the supernatural by man's own magic powers. The Bhairawas paid homage to a sort of Durga - Sanghyang Berawi or Begawati, their deity of evil and death - and they influenced the higher cult with a new demonology, death cult, magic science, and magic terminology. It imparted a strong magic flavour to the national religion, but it disappeared as a separate sect.


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