Hello everyone, at Hand2Hand we are on the right track to unleash our App to the world this September! We are very excited and in the near future will be sharing a lot more information.
In the mean time we continue our Masks of the World blog series with our second entry – The Masks of the Balinese Gods.
We hope you enjoy it and that it inspires you to use bring to me to get that one of a kind art from all around the globe.
The Origin of the Balinese Mask
Masks have been used in Topèng, a type of performance know as a mask drama that is an important genre in Bali.
Originating in the beginning of the 15th Century, Topèng have been used for both religious and traditional performances since the creation of the Balinese mask drama. According to history records, the Balinese mask drama tradition expanded from tribe to tribe, fueled by the tribal dances in Indonesia.
These tribal dances were meant to honor the Gods and ancestors. Dancers wore these masks to play the part of messengers of the gods. Balinese tradition states that each mask is a sacred object that demands it´s bearer the deepest respect and caution while wearing it.
Each Balinese village has its own mask, or Barong, that acts as a symbolic guardian.
Barong the Guardian
Barong is a lion like creature and character in the Balinese mythology. He is the king of spirits, leader of the legions of good, and enemy of the Rangda, the demon queen and mother of all spirit guarders.
The battle between Barong and Rangda is pictured in the Barong dance to represent the eternal battle between good and evil.
The term barong derives from the local term bahruang, which nowadays corresponds to the Indonesian word beruang which means bear. It refers to a good spirit, that took the form of an animal as the guardian of the forest.
In Balinese mythology, the good spirit is known as Banas Pati Raja. He is the fourth brother or spirit child that accompanies a child throughout their life like a guardian angel.
Banas Pati Raja is the spirit that animates the Barong . A protector spirit that is often represented as a lion that is accompanied by two monkeys.
The Barong is portrayed as a lion with read head, covered in white thick fur, and wearing jewelry adorned with pieces of mirros.
The origins of the Barong have been lost trough time. It’s origins could be from animisworship, before Hinduism appeared, at the time villagers still believed in the supernatural protective power of animals.
On the opposite Rangda is Barong’s evil counterpart. While Barong represents good, Rangda is the encarnation of evil.
Rangda is known as a demon queen, the incarnation of Calon Arang, the legendary Witch that wreaked havoc in ancient Java during the reign of Airlangga in the 10th century. It is said that Calon Arang was a widow, powerful in the arts of black magic, who often destroyed farmer’s crops and spreaded diseases. She had a daughter called Ratna Manggali, who, though beautiful, could not get a husband because all the people were terrified of her mother. Calon arang became angry with the difficulties of her daughter finding a husband and took reveng by kidnapping a young girl. The girl was brought to a temple to be sacrificed to the goodess Durga. The following day, a great flood engulfed the village and many people died.
King Airlangga, who heard what happened, asked his advisor, Empu Bharada, to deal with the offense. Empu Bharada sent his disciple, Empu Bahula, to be married to Ratna. Both were married with a huge feast that lasted seven days and seven nights, and all returned to normal.
The witch Calon Arang had a book containing magic incantations. One day this book was found by Empu Bahula who turned it over to it´s master Empu Bharada.
As soon as Calon found out the book was stolen, she became angry and deciced to fight Empu Bharada. Without the help of Durga, Calon was defeted.
Since her defeat, the village was protected from her evil black magic.
There is also another version of events that holds Ranga linked with the queen Mahendradatta or Gunapriyadharmapatni, a Javanese princess sister of Dharmawangsa of East Javanese Isyana Dynasty of late Medang Kingdom period.
Mahendradatta was the queen consort of the Balinese king Udayana and Airlannga’s own mother.
She is known for her devotion to the worship of Durga in Bali.
History records tell us that Mahendradatta mother of Airlangga was condemned by Airlanggas’s father because she was a fan of the black magical arts.
After she became a widow, humiliated and enraged with her ex-husband’s court and whole of his kingdom. She summoned all the evil spirit from the jungle. The leyaks and the demons that caused plague and death were spread upon the kingdom. Airlangga faced his own mother to save the kingdom. Airlannga was overpowered by her legion of evil black magic hosts. Airlannga had to ask for the help of the spirit king, the Barong in order to defeat her.
Barong came in Airlangga’s aid, and helped defeat the evil Rangda.
They battled for days, casting incantation after incantations, but in the end good surpassed evil and the Rangda defeated and ashamed of herself ran away.
Performers of this dance were masks that cover their face and use typical long garments to portrait the fur of the animal they are representing.
The lion is the most popular one, as it comes from the Gianyar region, where Ubud is located.
Within the calon arang, the dance drama in which the Barong appears, the barong respond’s to Rangda’s use of magic to control and kill her to restore balance.
In traditional Barong dance, performances, represent this epic fight between the forces of good and evil.
Another popular dance is one where two monkeys appear alongside the barong in a peaceful environment and tease him in a harmful way.
The most dark one, is a dance that depicts the Rangda bewitching soldiers to kill them selves with their own swords, and the Barong coming in their aid and making them invincible to the blades touch.
Well we hope you enjoyed our blog entry in the Masks of the World – The Masks of the Balinese Gods.
We are looking forward to see you using our app this June to buy this beautiful authentically Balinese masks.