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“Barong” comes from the Balinese “bahruang,” which corresponds to the Indonesian “beruang” (bear). Barong Ket is depicted as a lion-like creature with a red head, covered in white thick fur, wearing gilded jewelry adorned with pieces of mirrors. The barong animal mask dance probably predates Hindu influences on the island and represents the eternal struggle between good and evil as exemplified in the battle between Barong and Rangda (“widow”), the child-devouring demon queen of the demons and leyaks (ghoulish, cannabilistic humans with fangs and long tongues who can fly and transform themselves into pigs; at night, their heads and entrails separate from their bodies and fly out to suck the blood from a newborn or unborn child). Rangda is a nearly naked old woman with long, unkempt hair, pendulous breasts, and claws, wearing a fanged, goggle-eyed mask with a long, protruding tongue. The barong dance comes from the Gianyar region, where Ubud is located, and is part of a larger dance drama called “calon arang.” It opens with two playful monkeys teasing Barong in a peaceful environment, but then, in the "Keris Dance" section. Rangda appears, casting black magic on the male dancers who represent king Airlangga's soldiers, ordering them to commit suicide; they stab themselves with their own asymmetrical daggers (kris), but Barong and a priest cast protective spells on them to make them invulnerable to sharp objects. The dance ends with Barong defeating Rangda, who runs away, thus restoring the proper celestial order.
The dance is related to the legendary witch Colon Arang, a widow who destroyed crops and caused disease. To avenge her beautiful daughter Ratna Manggali’s inability to find a suitor, due to Colon Arang’s evil reputation, she kidnapped a girl and sacrificed her to the goddess Durga, thus bringing about a great, destructive flood. King Airlangga ordered his advisor, Empu Bharada, to deal with this problem; Empu Bharada sent his follower Empu Bahula to marry Ratna and end the conflict. But later Empu Bahula found his mother-in-law’s book of spells and turned it over to Empu Bharada, causing Calon Arang to resume her depredations. But without her magic she was defeated and the village was safe from her black magic. Actually, Barong Ket is only the best-known of the five barongs; each region has its own spirit to protect its forests and lands. In addition to the leonine Barong Ket, Barong Celeng has the shape of a boar, Barong Macan, a tiger, Barong Naga, a dragon or snake, and Barong Landung, a giant (similar to the ondel-ondel puppet of Betawi).
Rangda also became associated with the historical mother of Airlanna ("jumping water," "he who crossed the water") himself. Gunapriya Dharmapatni was the sister of king Dharmawangsa of Medang, in East Java. Apparently, her first husband died and the king, after launching a disastrous naval assault against Palembang in 990, betrothed her to his vassal, king Udayana Warmadewa of Bali, in ordeer to recover some of his kingdsom’s strength. She took with her to Bali her young son and the worship of Durga, and she took the name Mahendradatta. Though according to Balinese legend Udayana condemned and exiled her for practicing witchcraft and black magic, she may have been the de facto ruler of the kingdom due to her brother’s power, and she sent Airlanna back to Medang to receive a royal education. But when Udayana died he was succeeded by his own eldest son Marakata (who was followed decades later by the youngest brother, Anak Wungsu). Mahendradatta sought revenge by summoning the leyaks and the demons, and half the island’s population died in a plague. Airlangga defied his own mother and with help from Barong the spirit king forced her to flee. After the assault on Palembang, Sri Culamanivarmadeva, the maharaja of Srivijaya, became anxious to thwart the growing power of Medang and incited Dharmawangsa’s vassal, Wurawari of Lwaram, to revolt. In 1006, during 16-year-old Airlangga’s wedding to one of Dharmawangsa’s daughters, Wurawari sacked the royal palace, slew the king and his family, and slaughtered his subjects, though Airlangga managed to escape, fleeing west to Wonogiri, Central Java, and becoming a hermit. After Mahendradatta’s death in 1011 she was deified and depicted as Durga Mahisashuramardini (Durga as the slayer of Bull-demon). In 1019, Airlangga left the monastery and began to recover former Medang territory, established a new kingdom, made peace with Srivijaya, and expanded his domain as Chola raids against the Srivijaya Empire weakened its power. The Srivijayan king Sangramavijayattungavarman was captured and his daughter Dharmaprasadottungadewi fled west and married Airlangga. In 1037 he moved his capital from Watan Mas to Kahuripan. He intended to make Sanggramawijaya, his daughter by Dharmaprasadottungadewi, his successor, but she decided to become a Bhikkuni Buddhist hermit instead. To avoid a civil war between his sons, he divided his kingdom between them and abdicated in 1045 to resume his life as a hermit. He was given the name Resi Gentayu by a celebrated hermit, Mpu Bharada, whom local legend has credited with the partition as well: flying with a jar, he poured water which transformed into a river to mark the boundary between the two new kingdoms, Janggala and Panjalu. Resi Gentayu died in 1049, the same year his youngest brother Anak Wungsu became king of Bali, and his sons went to war against each other. In 1052, Mapanji Alanjung Ahyes of Panjalu conquered Janggala, but in 1059 Airlangga’s son-in-law Samarotsaha ascended the throne of Janggala.
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