Barong Kedingkling: A Merry Exorcism
Barong Kedingkling is a sacred performance of nine masked dancers which derives its theme from Ramayana epic. It has exorcism function. It is performed when there is a pestilence hits the town or before a temple anniversary to ensure the success of the ceremony.
The origin of Barong can be narrated as follow: It is told in the village of Medangan, Gianyar Regency, that a terrible pestilence threatened the people about 300 years ago, when King Batu Renggong’s great-grandson was on the throne in Klungkung. The new king’s elder brother, I Dalem Agung Pemayun, was driven into exile after he had refused to assume the title of King of Bali for himself. After I Dalem Agung Pemayun had wandered for some time in the wilderness of the northern mountain district and meditated there, he traveled south and entered Medangan while the epidemic was raging.
The desperate villagers appealed to the great man for help and he proposed possible remedy for their distress. ‘In the palace in Klungkung are some wonderfully powerful sacred mask,’ he told them. ‘They represent the sacred monkeys of the holy Ramayana, and they have the power to drive out the disease.’ He told the people of ceremonies conducted in the palace to protect against disease by driving out the demons. At this suggestion, the villagers made nine masks, copies of those in Klungkung palace, and inaugurated the Barong Kedingkling sacred performance.
The performance of Barong Kedingkling begins at noon in the inner courtyard of the temple. The leader of the dancers, usually a temple priest, is called Sugriwa, King of The Monkeys, from Ramayana epic. Wearing a very handsome monkey mask in the style of wayang wong and costume made of white palm fibers, he enter the inner courtyard of the temple, dancing to the accompaniment of Betel gamelan, an ensamble consisting percussion instruments plus a quartet of metalophones which accompanies the shadow play performance. Sugriwa carries a tray, on which are arranged pieces of roast pig (babi guling).
His dance is very simple, without rigorous technical demands, and is based on mimicry of monkey movement. He dances about in inner courtyard of the temple, singing Balinese song, before calling on his two prime ministers, Anoman, and Anggada. The two apes are masked and costumed like their king, but are dressed in different color: Anoman wears white, Anggada red. Between them they carry a living pig, hanging upside down from a pole on their shoulders. This animal will be sacrificed at the end of the ceremony.
Anoman and Anggada are followed into the inner courtyard by four other monkeys, each bearing a different kind of offering on a plate and two clown characters that often found in shadow play performance. This pair of clowns are Twalen and his son Mredah. They attend King Sugriwa in Barong Kedingkling performance. They translate his command from Kawi into Balinese for benefit of the audience, as well as explain the ritual and comment on the action. Twalen and Mredah carry incense and holy water and dance a simple choreographic pattern with the seven monkeys in the inner courtyard.
With a shouted signal, the monkey king calls his band to form a circle in the middle of the inner courtyard. All sit as Sugriwa exercises a priest function in presenting the offering to the shrine. The living pig and the other meat offerings are kept to one side, for they will be presented later, to the demons. The Sugriwa’s troupe sits quietly for half an hour or so as the offerings are presented. Then they rise, and with loud shout and monkey noises rush out of the inner courtyard to visit each of the households in the village.
The monkeys swarm into the town, singly and in pairs, while the gamelan is picked up and moved to the street. There the musicians continue to accompany the dancing monkeys. The clamor is intense; children rush to and fro, and the monkeys invade every household, sometimes “rob” the kitchens. Once inside the compound, they visit the family temple and climb any coconut or fruit trees that grow on the property. These are shaken to drive off any harmful spirits.
Twalen and Mredah carry holy water form house to house. They also traffic wardens for the monkeys, directing them where to go. The older dancers who have begun the ceremony pass their masks to younger men who take turns in the game. Everywhere, people give them small presents of food and money.
The special affinity of the monkeys for the productive trees of the village is a central aspect of the performance. Alarmed by the tree climbers, the squirrel population of the village also flees. The demon also driven out by the din of the private homes in the village into the street, where they can be bribed with offering and sent on their way out of town.
At about six o’clock in the evening, the dancers gather once again in the inner courtyard of the temple. The forty or so who have taken part are exhausted from the running, hopping and shouting they have done. Now, the pig and other offering are sacrificed to the demons. The demons are exhorted to go away, leaving the town in peace.