Calonarang is a traditional play which is performed sacredly during rituals ceremony. The play itself involves many people who take different parts for the performance. The four hours play usually takes place at a temple near cemetery which specially to worship the Bhatari Dhurga. Bhatari Dhurga is the Black Magic Goddess in Balinese mythology and worshiped by the people who do Black magic. It starts at midnight for the ritual reason and because the play involves magic. It is usually followed by traditional music which is called gamelan played by a group of people.
The audience is the temple’s worshippers in the village or the community which carries the ceremony. There are three important aspects in the play which are; Babarongan (mythology creatures in horrific appearances) represented by Barong Ket and Rangda, Pagambuhan (characters who build up the dialogue) represented by Condong, Putri, Patih Manis (Panji), Patih Keras (Pandung) and Palegongan (supporting characters for the dancers) represented by Sisiya-sisiya (students). Other important characters are Matah Gede (the character as Calon Arang).
The story is about a wicked widow lived in a small village, named Calon Arang. She was notoriously known as a black magic master who spread diseases and spelt over the crops to fail. She had a beautiful daughter called Ratna Manggali. Unlikely her mother, the girl had a good heart, however, nobody dared to marry her because of her mother. Knowing this, Calon Arang was furious then she created disease which killed many villagers.
The King at the time, King Airlangga, consulted Empu Bharadah to help him defeating Calon Arang. Empu Bharadah tasked the mission to his student, Empu Bahula, through marrying Ratna Manggali. It is easy for Empu Bahula to find out his mother in law weakness after the marriage. He found out that the weakness was in a black magic book kept by Calon Arang. Through the daughter, he got the place where the book was saved then he stole it to defeat Calon Arang. End of the story, Calon Arang was killed and the village got its peace again.
Moreover, the story develops during the Calon Arang play into more detail which takes 4 hours of performance. The play is started by some female dancers. Then followed by the rest of the characters to build up the climax. There are then some people dead during the play as the story goes because of the Calon Arang’s black magic.
Here the Hindu funeral procession is captured in more detail. The funeral procession is viewed from the very beginning, from washing the body, wrapping it with white fabric, giving it prayers and offering. The scene turns into a horrific preview when the body is wrapped in a white fabric followed by prayers that is chanted. During this stage, the horrible mythology creatures come out and circle the corpse. In Hindu these creatures represent negative energy or black magic creatures which are described to disturb people during rituals including the funeral. They are commonly embodied in animals form such as; monkey, dog, and cat or in other horrific form of evil. The corpse is carried by a group of supporting characters to the cemetery. The play then ends there at the cemetery, meanwhile the main enemy, Calon Arang on the stage is defeated by the heroic character, Empu Bharadah.
This Calonarang performance is considered as the sacred performance, which is only performed during Balinese rituals. On the other hand, as the tourism sector develops, the play is copied to be performed as an entertainment. It is to introduce foreigners how Calonarang is played and give them the general overview of the Balinese mythology. The duration is also shortened to enable tourists watch the whole play in a limited time.
There are many travel agents or hotels provide this cultural performance package. Live theatre is better to watch than watching through TV or online media. The feel will not be the same. Better be there and getting involved with the other audiences. Visiting Bali without watching this play would not be complete. Get more experience for the Balinese rituals and share this to your family and friends. There are more to explore on the island, but first step would be this Calonarang.