Lara Kidul

The Story of Nyai Lara Kidul, Queen of the Southern Ocean

Mantring Moder

Story of Mantring Moder

How better to tell a tale from Bali than through the beautiful colours and vision of the many talented artists from an enchanted isle. Their various works can be see and purchased at the numerous galleries in Bali.

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In every single presentation of the Barong dance Rangda appears. But, you may ask who or what is Rangda? The answer to this question comes from many sources, which include Lontar leaf manuscripts such as Lontar Baradah Carita, Lontar Tanting Mas, Lontar Calonarang and Lontar Babad Rangda. Rangda (which in old Javanese means widow), is easily recognizable as she usually appears in the dance wearing the mask of a terrifying woman -- with bulging eye, long tusks, a wide mouth and unruly long hair that sweeps along the ground. In addition to her frightening mask her body and legs are covered in thick hair. Rangda usually appears in dances performed in the temples in conjunction with religious ceremonies.

Rangda’s story is one of rejection. After her husband takes another younger wife and dismisses his ageing wife, Gunapriya, to the forest--she turns to the power of the left (black magic) enabling her to destroy the society around her. While Ratna Menggali was growing up, none of the young men wanted to propose marriage to her, even though she was very beautiful. This made her mother, Rangda, feel very offended. Actually the young men were afraid to propose to Ratna Menggali because they were terrified of her mother who was renowned for her black magic power that she had learned from Lontar manuscripts. Actually the Lontars contained valuable knowledge about how to reach the state of perfection in life, but because Rangda approached them in a negative way she instead gained mastery of ngeleak or black magic. To relieve her feelings of disappointment at the rejection of her daughter she began to worship Dewi Begawati--along with her students named Rarung, Lenda, Lendi, Guyang, Weksirsa and Mahisa Wardana. She prayed very devotedly and eventually Durgha/Begawati appeared. Rangda asked Dewi Durgha to be allowed to bring disaster to the kingdom as revenge for her disappointments. Durgha allowed her to do this in the villages but not in the city. The most terrible disaster then happened in the villages where people suffered horrible diseases and death. King Erlangga was told that the cause of the disaster in his villages was Rangda and he commanded his soldiers to kill her. Rangda proved to be too powerful to defeat and in the end the king asked for advice from the palace priest. After the ceremony of Agni Homa, Dewa Siwa informed the palace priest that the person able to defeat Rangda was the priest Mpu Bharada who lived in Lemah Tulis.

The king asked Mpu Bharada to help him to defeat Rangda. Mpu Bharada agreed and decided to send his son Mpu Bahuta to Dirah to ask Ratna Menggali to become his wife. Both Ratna Menggali and her mother accepted his proposal. The young couple was duly married and they were very happy together. Then one day Bahuta asked his wife why her mother was so rarely at home. She said that her mother often went to the graveyard. This conformed Bahuta’s suspicions about Rangda’s involvement in black magic and that it was indeed she who was the source of the strange diseases in the village. Ratna Menggali also told him that her mother owned a Lontar book that she used for studying black magic or pangleakan. Mpu Bahuta asked his wife to help him by stealing Rangda’s book. His wife agreed and he was soon in possession of Rangda’s Lontar. Mpu Bahuta showed the Lontar to Mpu Bharada. After reading it the priest discovered that the book was about how to find perfection in life, to reach moksa and to return to god. Rangda, however, had used it in a negative way and made herself into an evil woman. Mpu Bharada went to Dirah and found her dancing in the graveyard, practising her black magic. Rangda was very pleased by his visit. She asked him for help to purify her so that she could put an end to her evil and sinful ways. However because she was so sinful he was unable to purify her, despite his attempts. Rangda was extremely angry and began to attack him and they commenced a great battle. Rangda lost the fight and her dead body was burnt in order to release her soul to suffer the torments of hell.


Sea of Honey

The Sea of Honey

The Sea of Honey is based loosely on Balinese babad.

What is babad?

Often defined as historical chronicles or dynastic genealogies. Balinese babad are complex and varied texts that elude easy definition and transcend distinct categories of history, literature, and religion. We need to understand the local logic behind them and the ways they are used by the Balinese.

Babad provides insight into Balinese perceptions of their history. Babad are embedded in a social and political world and should be read--as far as possible--within that context. The political functions of babad should help inform our understanding of how the Balinese used these texts in the past and how they continue to employ them today.

The traditional Balinese use of babad is to legitimise rule. The three earliest texts, Babad Dalem, Usana Bali, and Usana Jawi, all establish the lineage of particular Balinese royal families, tracing their origins to the warriors of Java's Majapahit dynasty who conquered Bali in the fourteenth century. The opening sections of these texts focus on the beginnings of civilization and religion on the island, while later sections are more heavily genealogical in nature. These earliest texts appear to have been produced at the beginning of the eighteenth century, following the shift in political power from the once dominant Gelgel dynasty to the newly emerging Klungkung kingdom in approximately C.E. 1687. Because these texts all reflect back on the fourteenth century from a remove of some four hundred years, their historical reliability has been in question. Indeed, the portrait of Gelgel's unassailed hegemony from the fourteenth to the seventeenth century as presented in Klungkung's official court document, Babad Dalem, most likely represents an imagined past glory rather than an approximation of reality. Yet if this glory was imagined, it was also projected and realized through Babad Dalem. The text helped establish Klungkung as the heir to both Gelgel and Majapahit and helped secure for Klungkung the position as the pre-eminent kingdom in Bali. Despite the emergence of competing court centres during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Klungkung's small kingdom managed to dominate until its final conquest by the Dutch in 1908. This was due largely to the general acceptance of Babad Dalem's portrayal of Klungkung as a most direct descendant of the ancient sacred centre of power, Majapahit.

As other courts struggled to legitimize their rule, they, too, sought origins in Majapahit, most often by claiming a hereditary connection through Klungkung and Gelgel and by composing babad that incorporated passages from Klungkung's Babad Dalem. Kingdoms like Badung and Tabanan that could not establish a link with Klungkung turned instead to the competing claims of Usana Bali and Usana Jawi.

Beneath a Perfume Sky

Beneath a Perfume Sky

The first book in a series that the author is writing and illustrating about Indonesia. She was born in Paddington NSW and attended the National Art School of Australia. Pamela and her husband Rod have travelled extensively throughout Southeast Asia. They share a lifelong love and fascination with Indonesia.

This is a basic introduction to the culture of Bali--a simple poem describes an aspect of Balinese life with additional notes relating to that particular subject.