Known as one of Bali's most iconic and spiritual dance dramas, the Barong and Keris dance is an integral part of Balinese culture. The Barong and Keris dance tells the age old story of the battle between good and evil with Barong the protector fighting against the wrath of the witch queen Rangda. The dance is of deep cultural significance to the Balinese people and a tradition they adore sharing with tourists. Providing a classic example of Balinese culture and history, the Barong and Keris dance is a highlight of any Bali holiday.
According to Balinese mythology, Barong is a mythical character portrayed by a strange half lion, tiger, and dog creature. King of spirits and the magical protector of Balinese Villages, Barong must fight off his enemy Rangda, - a witch who rules the spirits of darkness. The story of the Barong and Keris dance is used as a reflection of the actions and choices of daily life, representing good and bad behaviour, known as dharma and adharma in Balinese culture.
The Barong and Keris dance tells the story of Erlangga, tenth century Balinese King and his mother Rangda who was criticised by her husband for practicing black magic. Upon becoming a widow, Rangda summoned all the demons and evil spirits in the jungle to besiege King Erlangga. Erlangga fought the demons, but the black magic was too strong and Erlangga had to ask Barong for help.
Barong joined forces with Erlangga and his soldiers causing a dramatic fight to unfold. Rangda cast a spell against Erlangga and his soldiers, making them all want to kill themselves. The soldiers began to point their poisoned keris (a sharp spear) to their own chests and stomachs. However, Barong cast a spell of his own, making their bodies resistant to their sharp keris. Ultimately, Barong’s spell was too strong for Rangda who ran away in defeat.
To this day, the Barong and Keris Dance is an exciting performance with an element of danger. It is said that if Rangda’s black magic is too strong, weaker soldiers performing the dance might not be able to resist her powers and could end up hurting themselves with their own keris, even with the help of Barong. The Barong and Rangda masks used in the Barong and Keris dance are especially sacred items and a priest must be present to sprinkle them with holy water from Mount Agung, and offer blessings before they are brought out for a performance.