One of Bali’s famous symbols is the Barong. If you google ‘Bali’, a picture of the Barong will surely come up. The head of the Barong is also often displayed on tourism merchandise such as t-shirts or bags. But what is the Barong actually? We are sure that most of the average tourists who are coming to Bali are not aware of the importance and meaning of the Barong. One thing we can tell you, it is much more than just a Balinese symbol used to display Bali. Actually, the Barong is one of the most important and holy statue for the Balinese.
He is the king of the spirits, leader of the hosts of good, and enemy of Rangda, the demon queen and mother of all spirit guarders in the traditions of Bali. The battle between Barong and Rangda is featured in the Barong dance to represent the eternal battle between good and evil. 

The Balinese also believe that the Barong is a protector, against all evil spirits. Therefor the Barong is used to go around the village to scare away bad spirits and to ensure the village stays safe and ‘good’.

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. Stay tuned for our next blog post where we will talk more about the kids going around the villages during the Galungan period.