The Kecak Dance is an icon of Balinese performing art and locals say is one of the “must see” things once you get to Bali. “Cak! Cak! Cak cak cakcakcakcakcakcakcak…,” when you hear that sound, it means that the dance performance has begun in Pura Ulawatu Temple. The origins of the Kekac Dance are rooted in an old ritual dance called sanghyang or trance dance. In sanghyang dance, a person in a state of trance communicates with the deities or ancestors. The dancer acts as a medium to communicate the deities or ancestors’ wishes.
The routine as seen today was composed around the 1930’s and it is performed by a group of around 40 men swathed black-and-white checkered fabric. They enter the stage chanting “cak” in organized rhythm and harmony and raise their hands to the sky while stomping their feet. They form a circle and imitate the sounds of gamelan with their voices.
There are many things I liked about Kecak dance in Uluwatu, yet what I most loved about Kecak, is not just the tens of voices harmonizing in one impressive “Cak! Cak! Cak! Cakcakcakcakcakcakcakcak…” song, the masks, the make-up or costumes, the talent of the actors and actresses, but most of all I loved the meanings, the deep-rooted symbols of Hindu mythology.
Rama & Sita – the love story
The dance tells the story of Ramayana and his beautiful wife, princess Sita. It’s a story about Good overcoming evil. Rama, King Dashratha’s eldest son has married Sita, a beautiful princess. Now the old king can hand over the kingdom of Ayodhya to his son. But things are not so simple, as Bharat, Dashratha’s wife and mother the mother of his eldest wants her son to inherit the throne. She successfully compels Dashratha to exile Rama, Sita and Lakshman (Rama’s brother) and make Bharat successor.
For years Rama, Sita and Lakshman make their home in the forest in a little cottage – a perfect refuge for them in their banishment. But their quite life ends once day when the demon king, Rahwana (or Ravana) tries to kidnap Sita. He tries all sorts of tricks to take her away from his beloved husband until he finally succeeds it. He takes Sita to his home island called Lanka. Garuda, the bird-king is one of those trying to stop Rahwana to steal away Sita and he’s wounded.
In India, Indonesia and the rest of Southeast Asia, Garuda stands for the eagle symbolism, a large mythical bird with eagle-like features that appears in both Hindu and Buddhist mythology as the vahana (vehicle) of the god Vishnu. He’s a protector, a defender against all evils.
Rama searched his wife for years, but he failed to find her until one day he crosses paths with Hanouman (or Hanuman) the king of white monkeys with his magic powers plays a major role in Sita’s reunion with Rama. He is the one who gathered an army of millions of monkeys and also their great bears to look for Sita. It took Rama years, but thanks to Hanuman special powers (he could fly like a bird), he found where Ravana was keeping Sita, imprisoned on his island. A great battle takes place, Hanouman is caught in the middle of the fire and is almost killed. There’s a happy end for Rama and Sita, as they get back together thanks to Hanouman’s help and magic powers.
If we look deeper into Hindu mythology, Hanouman is also known as Mahavira or Bajrangbali, is a Hindu god and an ardent devotee of the god Rama. Several texts also present him as an incarnation of the god Shiva. He is the son of Anjanaand Kesari, and is also described as the son of the wind-god Vayu.
Kekac Dance at Uluwatu Temple
This article was originally published on ambogdan.com.