Ritual Purification Dance Gets a Revival

DENPASAR ~ The local government revived a centuries-old Balinese tradition of ritual purification through dance with a public performance in central Denpasar on Sunday.

The practice of Ngelawang is traditionally held in the weeks following the Galungan festival. Dancers dressed as the mythical lion Barong dance through the streets blessing and purifying houses, but the practice largely died out in the 20th Century.

Last Sunday 10 remaining Ngelawang groups from each of the Denpasar districts performed the dance through the streets of Denpasar.

According to the Deputy Mayor of Denpasar, Ida Bagus Rai Darmawijaya Mantera, the performance was initiated in an effort to bring back lost Balinese traditions.

“We want to motivate all the Ngelawang groups in every village in Denpasar to keep the tradition from vanishing altogether. By holding such a performance, we hope to encourage enthusiasm to preserve our own culture,” he told reporters.

Separately, Made Erwin Suryadarma Sena of the Mayor’s Office said that the Ngelawang tradition today had been modified to make allowances for modern traffic.

“In the old days, Ngelawang was held at the same time as the Galungan festivities. The Barong would travel through different areas, and local people would stop the Barong and ask him to purify the house compound by performing a ritual dance on the street,” said Sena.

“Today, instead of having them parade through the street in an unplanned way, we have arranged for the groups to gather in designated places in Denpasar, and from there they perform the ritual in turns,” he said.

To encourage the Ngelawang groups, the Mayor’s Office has granted Rp50 million (US$5,380) to support all of 10 groups.

“This is our way of helping to revive the tradition in Denpasar,” Sena said.

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