Tropical Punch Tour: Bali Part 13
Featuring the Calon Arang at Pura Dalem Puri.
Sunday, June 6, 2010

Sunday, June 6, 2010
Peliatan, Bali, Indonesia

It was a sunny day out, so I decided to rent a mountain bike. It felt so good to ride again. I spent a couple of hours pedaling around the villages to the West of Ubud, where I shot a few photos. Then I headed back East and took the main road in Peliatan a mile or so North, where there are a bunch of shops that make and sell wood carvings of every kind of creature and character you can imagine. Each shop is chock-full of the things, which made me wonder how they sell it all. Buyers from stores like Pier 1 Imports must purchase a lot of it.

On the way back to Ubud, I passed by the entrance to Pura Dalem Puri, where I had been once before after a temple procession from Pura Marajan Agung. Since it was still light out, something compelled me to venture inside to look around. It just so happened that there was a huge, bi-annual temple ceremony going on right then. As I and a couple of other tourists peeked inside the main entrance, there was a woman gamelan playing a mellow tune to compliment the proceedings and lots of women walking around inside and out with huge offerings of fruit piled high on their heads.

A Balinese man approached a bit later and informed us that a special festival would start right outside the temple at 8.30 p.m. and run until 3.30 a.m. I was so amped! That was the exact kind of thing I was hoping I'd get to see--authentic Balinese dance and music performed for themselves, not tourists. (All of the shows I'd seen thus far were strictly for tourists and abbreviated to 60-90 minutes.)

I had two hours to kill, so I hung around and shot photos of people and ate some super cheap Padang food down the street. The performance, a series of dances and drama that tell the story of Calon Arang, did indeed get underway at 8:30 in front of a giant crowd of at least 2,000 with the Barong dance. He is Bali's good, protective spirit that always keeps the evil spirit, Rangda, in check. In this segment, he basically played around with a monkey who taunted him. Next came two masked dances: a female version called Telek, a pleasant affair which is now quite rare in Bali; followed by the male version, Jauk, which is more aggressive and warrior-like. The crowd was so huge, a Jumbotron displaying a simulcast of the show was set up 100 yards away so more people could see it.

Then a bunch of guys brandishing kris (daggers) battled Rangda, who ended up out on the street about 50 feet away from the side of the stage. I saw him surrounded by a small crowd, so I walked over there and knelt down inside an opening in the circle. A priest was conducting some kind of ceremony for Rangda with some holy water, incense and a huge offering on the ground. I wanted to take a photo so bad, but it was quite dark, and I was afraid that if I popped off a flash, the crowd might get pissed, or worse yet, that Rangda might attack me. He ranted and raved a bit more, then some guys pulled off his costume and carried him away. He was probably in a trance and they were going to re-awaken him. The onstage show continued with another round of Barong, then the Sisya dance and the Galuh dance. Sometimes, I hung out in the staging area off on the side and took photos of the performers right before they went on, which was so fun!

Next, the proceedings took a somber tone when several people who had been killed (in real life, they were in a trance) were carried in a funeral procession down to the stage, where their bodies were blessed by a priest during an intense ritual. During this segment, one of the men who battled Rangda ranted and growled into a microphone while a dog howled and some kind of creepy music played. The air was charged with a super strange energy and my whole body was covered in goosebumps.

The bodies were lifted from the stage and paraded back up to the temple, where, I was told by a local, their souls were eventually re-awakened. Then a raging battle erupted between Rangda and the kris guys. They ended up pulling off the top of Rangda’s costume and stabbing him (in his padded outfit) a bunch of times. I’m pretty sure he was in a trance, too.

Then, as if nothing serious had just happened, three dudes called Bondres, who looked like punk clowns, offered up at least a whole hour of slapstick comedy to the still teeming audience. The whole seven-hour extravaganza finally shuddered to a close after the Barong put Rangda in his place one last time. I was stoked I had the stamina to make it to the bitter end. The masses then made a beeline for their motorbikes for a hectic ride home for a few hours of sleep. As I lay down in bed totally exhausted, I noticed some light filtering in from a window on my right to the wall in front of me. It looked just like a projection of the bones in my arm. I held my arm up and slowly moved my hand up and down. The light on the wall matched every move I made, perhaps in a continuation of all of the strange sights and sounds I had just witnessed. Or maybe I was hallucinating?

Roll over photos for captions.
All words and photos ©2010 Arcane Candy.