I’ve been attending a conference in Bali this week, and tonight the delegates were taken to an outdoor drama performance in a temple in Karambitan village. It was about an hour’s drive north of Denpasar – at least I think it is north because I haven’t been able to find it on the map yet.
I guess this was a ‘real’ performance and not something put on for tourists, because we went up in two buses (there were about 60 of us) and there was nowhere for the buses to park (they caused a bit of an obstruction on the narrow street outside of the temple) and there were just as many locals watching the performance.
Before the performance we were invited to have dinner in an inner courtyard of the temple which was hosted by the headman of the temple (he is the distinguished looking gentleman in the white suit and traditional headgear in the second photograph below).
It was a beautiful night, and the atmosphere was exotic with the courtyard lit by lanterns and the perfume of the frangipani trees drifting through the still night air.
Drama is as an integral part of Balinese culture as dance, and the two are often intertwined in temple ceremonies.
I believe what we saw was called a barong play – a drama that depicts the fight between good and evil. It was interesting to watch, although I didn’t really understand what was going on. As it seemed to be staged as much for the locals as it was for us, there was nobody to explain what was happening.
However, I did learn that the character with the fiercesome mask in the bottom two pictures below – one of the main characters in the play – was called Rangda, a child-eating demon queen who leads an army of evil witches against the forces of good.
She is said to haunt graveyards, feed on corpses, and at night fly through villages, trailing her entrails, trying to find pregnant women to suck their babies’ blood.
As we were watching the drama performance, a group of local kids were sitting on the ground close to the action, but when Rangda appeared, they all ran away!
No flash photography was allowed during the performance, so the photographs below are a bit noisy because they were shot at ISO-1600.