card
280

Barong

OLogy Series
anthropology
card
280

Barong

OLogy Series
anthropology

Despite its ferocious appearance, Barong Ket is a welcome sight in Bali, Indonesia. Barong Ket is the village protector in Bali, the force that fights off the witch, Rangda, and restores the balance between chaos and order. This large, shaggy creature is also a common sight. Dancers in Barong costume often appear in ritual dramas and performances and interact with villagers and tourists alike.

In many performances, Barong confronts the demon queen Rangda, a half-goddess, half-witch. In these encounters:

Barong always wins

Rangda always wins

neither wins

Are you right?

Correct!

In these ritual dramas, neither side ever wins. Instead, the forces of good and evil remain in balance, reassuring the audience that all is right in the world. Rangda will always return, but so will Barong. These performances are especially common in parts of Bali visited by tourists.

Laurel Kendall, anthropologist

One reason Barong is so fascinating is that he's brought to life by the people of Bali in ritual dramas and dances. In performances, the audience comes face to face with Barong, and even interacts with him.

The face of Barong always looks like a lion.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fiction

Different regions in Bali have different Barong costumes, each resembling a different animal. The famous Barong Ket resembles a lion. Others look like a boar, tiger, cow, and dog.

In a Barong performance, one dancer portrays Barong.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fiction

It takes two dancers to portray Barong. One dancer, the front legs, moves the head and clacks the teeth. A second dancer, the hind legs, wiggles Barong's golden tail.

As part of a seasonal celebration, young men will take their Barong costumes to "visit" Barongs in other villages.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fact

These trips bring neighboring communities together and also enable young men to meet young women from other villages.

Physical features: large, shaggy body; elaborate head with some features resembling an animal, such as a lion or boar
Location: Bali, an island in Indonesia
Significance: The village protector who restores a balance between good and evil.
Barong costumes: Barong Ket (lion), Barong Bangkal (wild boar), Barong Machan (tiger), Barong Lembu (cow), and Barong Asu (dog)

Image credits: Sean Murtha; Laurel Kendall: courtesy of AMNH.