“Calonarang” is a fascinating story that has become a sacred part of Balinese heritage. The story is depicted in a gripping dance filled with tension and magical elements, making it especially interesting to watch. The story tells of the war between dharma (good) and adharma (evil) and has its history in East Java.
There are various adaptations of Calonarang, and in this post we will describe the Balinese version. In Bali, the Calonarang character is known as Walunateng Dirah, a woman who was able to perform black magic.
Her powers were known to be even mightier than the king’s, and as a result no man wanted to go near her daughter, Ratna Manggali, for fear that she may too have evil powers.
This made Walunateng Dirah so angry that she gathered her students at the Gandamayu cemetery to perform a black magic ritual known as ngreh-ngleak that spread a plague into the kingdom of Kediri.
An eerie atmosphere fell over Kediri and many people died unexpectedly without any natural causes. The distressed people of the kingdom reported these strange happenings to the General, Patih Taskara Maguna.
King Airlangga ordered the General and two of his assistants to go to the home of Walunateng Dirah.
Walunateng Dirah welcomed Patih Taskara Maguna into her home and then a huge fight broke out.
Walunateng Dirah cast the spell ilmu Dharma Weci and turned into the evil Rangda, while Patih Taskara Maguna cast the spell Dharma Banaspati Sadu with his powers and transformed into Barong.
During the battle that ensued, Rangda’s strength is finally purified again by the sacred power of Barong.
In Balinese culture, the Barong and Rangda dance is symbolic of the eternal universe. Both of these forces continue to exist side by side and look for a point of balance.
It is also believed that the Rangda and Barong are two powers that exist in man, both continually in battle until finally the mind finds peace.
In terms of staging, Calonarang performances are usually held near the grave (Pura Dalem), Pura Desa or Pura Puseh in each village, and whenever there is a big ceremony (piodalan jelih) in the villagetemple.
The location always features a high hall (trajangan) and papaya trees. The public are welcome to watch a Calonarang performance, as long as you are appropriately dressed for temple.
This includes a kebaya and sarong for women and a sarong and shirt for men. Also keep in mind that women who are menstruating may not enter the temple.
Calonarang is held every year, during the biggest Odalan of each village temple.