The Island Of Bali, Indonesia



According to Lekkerkerker and Stutterheim, Buddhism, or, rather, Buddhist magic, was introduced in Bali about A.D. 96, perhaps by the apostles, the brothers 1\tpti Kuturan and Mpti Bharada from Kediri (Daha). To them is attributed authorship of the civil and religious laws of Bali. Mpu Bharada, hero of the Tjalon Arang and teacher of Erlangga, was the magician who vanquished Rangda and today remains the most important figure in the magic lore.

A good deal of speculation revolves around the significance of the word Barong, for which there is no acceptable explanation. The Malay for " bear," baruang, has been suggested, but Malay was a recently introduced language and there were no bears in Bali. The classic Barong is called barong ketet or kekek, but there are also Barongs in the form of tigers (barong matjan), of pigs (baroug bangkal), of lions (barong singha ) ; and once we saw one in the shape of an elephant (barong gadja).

There are also Barongs in human shape like the giant puppets (barong landong) who, holy as they are, perform ribald slapstick comedy. The main characters of the barong landong are Djero Gede, " The Big One," an evil giant identified with the fanged monster Djero Gede Metjaling, the demon of Nusa Penida, and Djero Luh, " The Female," a lewd old woman. Most intriguing Barongs are those reported in Tmnyan by Walter Spies (Das grosse Fest im Dorfe Trunjan): in this ancient Bali Aga village a great festival is held in which the trunas, the virgin boys, with their naked bodies covered with dried banana leaves, which give them the appearance of great cabbages, and wearing frightful primitive masks, run around the temple grounds whipping sauagelv anyone who comes within their reach.

These fierce monsters arc called barong berutuk, a term for which there is no interpretation. Two of these are the druwenes, the male and female berutuk Radjas, and are reminiscent of the Djero Gede and Djero Luh of the barong landong. They are seen with respectful awe by everybody, and leaves from their dresses are supposedly infallible amulets. Daring heoplc try to steal bit~ of leaf from their dresses, but are mercilessly whipped by the other berutuks, who seem to respect only the village elders and the small children.

The ceremony ends at sunset, when the monsters are disarmcd of their whips and the now confident crowd can approach to watch the lecherous love dance of the male and female druwenes, after which the entranced performers tear off their banana-leaf coverings and, completely naked except for their grimacing masks, jump into Lake Batur and swim for a while with the masks on, returning in the dark to have the sacred masks respectfully put away after the priests make offerings to them.

In behaviour and appearance the ordinary" Barong resembles the Chinese lion or chimera called gee-ling that performs wild antics during the Chinese New Year to the time of gongs, drums, and firecrackers. In Bali during the first month after galunggan, considered as the New Year, the Barongs are permitted to wander over the streets and roads making upa. that is, performing for pennies.

The most sacred part of the Barong is, its beard of human hair eoquettishly decorated with fresh flowers. Penawar water, a protective amulet, is made by dipping this beard into ordinary water while saying a prayer. Hairs from this beard are worn around the wrists as amulets. There are also extraordinary Barongs that are covered with crow and even peacock feathers instead of the usual fleece of horses' tails or fibres. I was told of a village who wished to have a Barong of crow feathers; the villagers only had to pray for them and one morning they found the temple yard strewn with the most beautiful shiny black feathers.

Balinese with imagination have told me that the Barong is Mpu Bharada, who fights Rangda in this form; that he is Banaspati, the Lord of the jungle, who is madly in love with Sanghyang Berawi and who Assumes the Barong shape to make love to her, but she will have none of it and turns into a Rangda to punish his insolence.


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