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Page 12

Calonarang -The Story of Rangda

The king of Kediri, Dharmawangsa, conquered Bali and sent his sister Mahendradatta, to wed Dharmodayana, ruler of the conquered land. After her marriage Mahendradatta was known as Queen Gunapriya. This union produced three fine sons, Erlangga, Marakata, Anak Wungsu, and a beautiful daughter called Ratna Mengali, who was much loved by her mother Queen Gunapriya.

Because she was Dharmawangsa’s sister, Gunapriya’s influence on the kingdom was profound, and this is how the language and etiquette of Java was introduced to Bali. Erlangga went to Kediri and married the daughter of King Dharmawangsa and became as a trusted son to the king. When Erlangga was sixteen years old Dharmawangsa was assassinated and Erlangga had to flee for his life. He took refuge in the forest, and his only companions were two holy men who were brothers. Their names were Mpu Bharada and Mpu Kuturan. These brothers were gifted with great spiritual and magical powers. Erlangga remained in the forest for many years with these holy men. Finally, with the help and advice of these holy men Erlangga gradually regained his father-in-law’s kingdom, and ruled it for thirty difficult years.

When King Dharmodayana of Bali took another wife, he banished his faithful first wife, the ageing Queen Gunapriya, in favour of the younger more beautiful girl. Gunapriya was incensed at her husband’s heartless behaviour toward her and appealed to her powerful son Erlangga for help. Erlangga ignored his mother’s plea for help because his father had banished her to the forest with the accusation that Queen Gunapriya was a witch. Because of this terrible accusation not one man in all the nobility was brave enough to seek the hand of her beloved daughter Ratna Mengali, this made Queen Gunapriya very sad.

Then quite unexpectedly King Dharmodayana died and Gunapriya became a widow, a rangda. Rangda was furious with her son Erlangga, blaming him for all her misfortune. She made an oath to destroy him and the kingdom of Kediri; and to do this she turned to the powers of the black arts. Rangda went with her pupils to the cemetery and danced and made offerings to Begawiti, the deity of black magic; to help her destroy Kediri.

The goddess appeared and danced with them and granted her permission, but she warned Rangda that she must leave the centre of Kediri untouched. The witches danced at the crossroads and soon the people fell sick in great numbers throughout the land. When King Erlangga discovered the cause of the epidemic he ordered his mother to be destroyed. He gave his soldiers directions how to find the evil, wicked witch. The soldiers crept into her house while she was still sleeping and stabbed her in the heart. Rangda awoke, startled, but unhurt, and she consumed the soldiers with her great fire.

Once again the great witch went into the cemetery with her pupils and danced their evil; they dug up corpses, cutting them into pieces, eating their members, drinking the blood; wearing the entrails as necklaces. Begawiti came to them again and joined in the bloody banquet, but once again she warned Rangda that she must be careful. The witches danced again at the crossroads, and the dreadful epidemic ravaged the land. The vassals of Erlangga died before they could bury the corpses they carried to the graveyards.

In desperation the king sent for Mpu Bharada, the holy man from Lemah Tulis; the only living man that could vanquish the wicked witch. Mpu Bharada planned his campaign very carefully. He sent his trusted young assistant Bahuta to Rangda to seek permission to wed her beloved daughter Ratna Mengali. This pleased the old witch greatly and she quickly gave her consent and blessing.

Bahuta and Ratna enjoyed a passionate honeymoon and the happy, love-struck girl soon revealed to her husband the source of her mother’s diabolical power. Ratna Mengali told her husband that all her mother’s power was contained in a very small book. Bahuta quietly stole the book away and handed it to his master to make a copy of it, and then the book was returned before its disappearance could be notices.

The book was a manual of righteousness and it had to be read backwards by those that wished to practise the magic of the left (evil), for those that wished to gain the power of Begawiti, the deity of black magic. The holy man was then able to restore life to all those victims of Rangda; all those whose bodies had not yet decayed.

Armed with this knowledge he accused the witch of her terrible crimes but she challenged him by setting a huge waringin tree alight, merely with a glance from her fiery eyes. However, Mpu Bharada enraged the witch by restoring the tree so she turned her fire against the holy man. He remained unmoved and killed her with one of her own mantras. And she died in the monstrous form that is Rangda. Bharada, in order to absolve her of her great evil and to allow her to atone, revived her and gave her a human appearance before he finally destroyed her.

Erlangga was overcome with grief and remorse on his mother’s death and renounced his kingdom, becoming a hermit in the forest far from any man’s eyes.

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