This week’s Travel Photo of the Week is a statue of a Barong in the artist community of Ubud, Bali, Indonesia. Masks and other artwork featuring Barongs are some of the most iconic of souvenirs brought back from the enchanting island of Bali. Balinese mythology is a hybrid mix of ancient Bali religion mixed with traditional Hindu. The Barong is unique to Bali but is a nod to other southeast Asian Lion dances (see previous article about Lion dance). The Barong in Ubud is represented by a stylized lion but in other areas of Bali it can take the form of other creatures such as a boar, a tiger, and a dragon/ serpent. The comical good nature of the Barong is displayed in traditional dance shows Barong Legong held throughout the island and is often in the company of monkeys as in this statue. The barong, or as he is referred to by the locals, Banaspati Radja, “Lord of the Jungle” represents the sun, the light, medicine, and the antidote to evil. On the opposite side of the scale is his enemy Rangda the female witch who could be interpreted as a manifestation of Kali from the Hindu religion (think of the cult in the third Indiana Jones movie). She is night, darkness, illness, and death and the two represent the classic battle of good versus evil.
In the Barong Legong performances, Rangda is represented by the character with long fingernails who carries a magical white cloth used as a weapon of death. The Barong costume consists of long hair, a sagging back of golden scales and an arched golden tail adorned with a square mirror, peacock feathers and little bells. The head features snapping jaws, bulging eyes and a crown, the beard the source of its power is made from human hair decorated with flowers. The masks of both Rangda and the Barong are treated with tremendous respect and are believed to possess great power. In every traditional village a set of masks are stored in the death temple. The masks are wrapped in magical cloth to insulate the magic of the masks. They are only uncovered for use in the dance, when the performer/ medium is in a trance and under the control of a priest, and not before offerings have been made to protect the participants. The masks are often sprinkled with holy water if there is an illness in the village. Daily offerings of rice, candy, and flowers are offered to this statue as evident in the photo indicating that even in modern time the Barong is held in high regard.
Other blog posts about Bali: