Bali has many sacred dances which still perform until today. One of them is Baris Memedi dance from Jatiluwih village and in Banjar Puluk-Puluk Tengkudak village, Penebel, Tabanan regency. Literally, in local language, baris means warrior and memedi is ghost or some unseen creature.
I Ketut Darmadi, a priest of Bale Agung Jatiluwih village, as stated in Nusa Bali, says that Baris Memedi is one of religious parts in Pitra Yadnya ceremony. It is performed for ceremony purpose especially in Atiwa-tiwa (cremation ceremony) and played 1 day before the cremation. This dance portrays the unseen creature who come to accompanied the spirit of the dead person in the journey to the eternal life.
Baris Memedi of Jatiluwih was exist since long time ago. Number of the dancers is not limited however it always odd amount (about 9 or 11 men) with 1 penamprat (leader). No criteria for the dancer, as it is “call for the soul” for ngayah (do something for religious purpose, expect nothing). Costume made from dry leaves or/and twig from the tree which grow in the cemetery and dress up there. They perform it spontaneously without practice before. Accompanied by (gamelan) gong bleganjur, this dance perform along the street from the cemetery to the house of the deceased. “Baris Memedi is a heritage from our ancestors, it should be preserved. Besides Jatiluwih, another Baris Memedi also exist in Banjar Puluk-Puluk, Tengkudak village, Penebel” Darmadi added.
Duration of the dance is not always the same, it depends on penamprat (the leader). It will stop when penamprat put klakat with rerajahan (ceremony article made from bamboo and sacred drawing) upon the dancer. The dancer could be conscious or semi conscious during performance, and when they are not regain consciousness, the priest will bring offering to the cemetery.
After performed Baris Memedi, all dancers must go to the river for cleaning themselves spiritually, then back to the cemetery for nebusin (other ritual to bring back their “soul”). And then melukat—purification of the soul.
As time goes by, Baris Memedi has little bit different from the past especially in the dance costume. In the past, they use some waste fabrics took from the grave but now the dancers use dry leaves and some waste as well but it all take from the cemetery area not from the grave.
One of the Baris Memedi dancers, Roby (18) had perform Baris Memedi since he was in Junior School. Even though this dance is very sacred, he is very happy perform this dance without fear. Meanwhile I Ketut Pityasa (44), another dancer said he feel the land he stepped on look like a cliff and the audiences look like double in number.
Image by Nyoman Martawan