According to an article in the Bali Post in 2010, the origins of the Barong Berutuk of Terunyan are said to be connected to a megalithic statue that is found in Terunyan’s Pancering Jagat Temple, called Bhatara Datonta. No one knows the origin of this massive statue which takes a naked human form with both male and female sex organs. It symbolizes both fertility and sexual dichotomy in Terunyan’s daily life.
The masks tell a story about a royal family, with four of the masks representing the king, queen, a prime minister and the queen’s elder sister, and the rest represent the commoners. I noticed that one of the masks is white and closely resembles the queen called ‘Jro Luh’ in the barong landung dance. This drama tells the story of a Balinese king from the Batur region who in the 12th century took a Chinese princess as his queen. Perhaps the barong berutuk date to that period and serve in part to tell of this royal inter-racial relationship.
The male berutuk dancers must be ‘quarantined’ for a period of 42 days where they are to abstain from meeting the opposite sex. During this time, they go to Pingan Village to collect the banana leaves which are in turn dried and sewed together to create their primitive costumes. Even their underwear will later be made from these leaves. They also prepare their whips which are made from the dried stems of banana trees.
The barong berutuk ritual itself lasts for three days where on one of those days (the exact day and time is determined by a trance medium) the barong will dance accompanied by Terunyan’s sacred gamelan selonding orchestra which is made up of just two iron-keyed instruments. Pre and post dance, the berutuk attempt to whip unsuspecting worshippers within and around the walls of the temple. Villagers believe that a whipping can in fact cure one from illness and some people request to be whipped.
During the dance of the king and the queen, who mimic the movements of a rooster and a hen, temple worshippers attempt to gather up stray leaves which they believe have not just healing properties if consumed but can also encourage fertility, both in humans and also upon the earth it is scattered.
The ritual ends with the berutuk plunging themselves into the lake, costumes and all, as other villagers scamper to retrieve their ancient masks.
© 2015 Vaughan Hatch