The Barongs of Bali
The Barong is unique to Bali and every time you see one it’s exciting. As you can see, they look life-like. They have spirit and come in various forms, the most common one being the Barong Ket. They symbolize Bali. Murni’s Warung Shop was honored to be asked to commission and oversee the making of a Barong Ket for one of the best-known museums in New York. It gave me an opportunity to take these photos.
And writing the book Secrets of Bali gave me the opportunity to research them and now to quote a few sentences from it without asking anyone’s permission except my own.
Walter Spies and Beryl de Zoete observed that Barongs are ‘…at once the most familiar and the most obscure…’ figures in Balinese tradition. Barongs come in many forms, but the most common is like a baroque Chinese lion, the Barong Ket, with big eyes and clacking jaws. It is one of the most sacred masks in Bali and probably every village has at least one.
The Barong protects the village from harmful influences. It parades the streets during every Galungan festival, dancing in front of shops and houses, warding off evil. The Balinese wait in front of their buildings and bow in reverence when it passes.
Barongs also parade just before Nyepi, at the time of the Balinese New Year. The Barong’s origins are obscure. Two men are inside; one operates the wooden head and lower movable jaw, and the other holds up the back and arched tail… they need to be very strong as the whole costume weighs about 187 pounds (85 kilos).
The beard of human hair from a pre-menstruating girl is the most powerful part. If it is dipped in water, it creates holy water and can cure. The hairy hide, made of palm fibres or the hair of a white horse, is covered with small bells, mirrors and decorations. It takes about three months to make a good quality Barong. When a Barong Ket is old and in shreds, it is ceremonially cremated.
There are more photographs of The Barongs of Bali on www.jonathaninbali.com