Long ago, it was said that an evil witch terrorized the people with her wicked witchcraft. Only the Barong, the sacred guardian, could fight on level with her. But every time she is vanquished, she returns. And Barong’s fight continues to this day.

The Barong is Bali’s own mythical creature. According to folklore, the Barong is a symbol of righteousness and justice. Barongs are commonly depicted as lions, cows, lions, or even dragons. A Barong consists of two parts: the head and the body. The head is considered most sacred, as it is carved from the wood of pule trees growing in temple courtyards. Once the wood has been extracted, it is blessed by a priest and then given to a special sculptor. The sculptor then starts crafting, producing an in temples, apart from the body. On special occasions, the mask is conjoined with the body and used in a dance.

The Barong dance is one of the most sacred dances in Bali. It was usually only conducted during special ceremonies, but now, some places hold daily Barong dances for tourist consumption. It takes two people to animate a Barong; one person animating the head and the other the body. The Barong dance tells the story of Rangda, an evil witch who was feared by the people. Barong then rides into battle, along with his own army, to bring the evil witch to justice. During the dance, dancers are put in a trance where they start stabbing themselves due to Rangda’s witchcraft. But they are not hurt because Barong casts protective magic on them. Once the trance is over, Barong and his supporters finally overthrow Rangda. But she does not die. Instead, she reincarnates and Barong must defeat her again. The fight never stops. It is symbolic of light’s eternal strife against darkness.

In villages, children or young people often do small Barong shows door to door during special ceremonies, such as Galungan. This is known as ngelawang and is a fun way to see informal Barong dances. Don’t forget to give a small donation!