Dance: Sanghyang Grodogan (Buongiorno Bali, October 2009)


Sanghyang dance is defined, or translated, as 'Revered Divinities' by Spies & De Zoete (1938), a god-inspired trance-dance. It aims at protecting the people against the evil forces invoked by the practitioners of black magic, and, in the case of an epidemic in the village, to produce a countercharm.

sanghyang grodogan01In certain villages the Rejang fulfils the same purpose, and there are yet other methods of dealing with black magic, such as the Barong and Calon Arang. Four main types of Sangyang are distinguished. First of all the Sanghyang Dewa or Dedari (goddess), secondly the Sanghyang Deling (from Lake Batur, Kintamani), Sanghyang Bungbung (only at the Pura Dalem of Sindu, by the sea), and fourthly Sanghyang Jaran (danced by boys or a lay priest with a hobby-horse). The boys or girls who are chosen for Sanghyang have to lead a particularly chaste and virtuous life before being brought into the state of trance which is required for them to become Sanghyang, in a state closer to and identified with the god. This happenes before the dance, where the dancers hang over incense amidst prayers and songs. Apart from the four mentioned Sanghyang dances, Spies & De Zoete mention that some Sanghyang varieties can temporarily be out of fashion, or be completely in abeyance. One is the Sanghyang Panjalin whereby dancers hold ratten wands in the air, twirl the around up to the point where these wands seem to be standing in thin air. The other one, without a name and apparently completely disappeared, saw a dancer gracefully manouvering her way to a high stellage of bamboo and putting offerings on top.

Sanghyang Grobogan, Grodogan or Gobokan?

Below text is a (loose) translation of an article on this dance in 'Buongiorno Bali', October 2009. The original article in Italian on the dance from Nusa Penida follows below.

sanghyang grodogan02

The Grobogan version of the Sanghyang is very rarely performed, and only in the village of Lembongan, Nusa Penida. It's a sacred dance and unfortunately it is about to become extinct. The last performance was given in 1970 and since then, without any evident reason, was abandoned. It takes place in sacred areas like in the courtyard of a temple, in front of the audience near the Bali Banyar, under a big tree like the Banyan Tree or other selected places in the second month Sasih Karo of the traditional Balinese calendar (around August). The Balinese believe that in this month the equilibrium between the positive and negative forces is under threat. For the performance, a traditional boat (Janggolan or Grodogan) is used on a pair of wheels so that is may be transported easily back and forth. The boat is decorated with cloths, fruit, flowers, plants and offerings. The Sanghyang Grobogan is a massive trance dance which is performed by at least 50 dancers. The male dancers all appear 'on stage' bare-breasted wearing a sarong with no special accessories. All dancers are volunteers that do not have to possess dancing skills. The only ritual they undergo before participating in the Sanghyang Grobogan is a religious ceremony of purification. The dancers, like in the other types of Sanghyang dances, enter into trance at the smell of incense and to the rhythm and music from the Sanghyang girls choir.

Comments by Ida Bagus Sidemen (21 October 2009)

This should be the Sanghyang Gobogan, danced by four male dancers enacting female roles. The Gobogan is the name for the crown (gelungan) that the dancers wear on their heads during the performance. The crown consists of palm leaves ornamented with flowers. Like the Sanghyang Dedari, danced by two female dancers, this Gobogan is also typical for Nusa Penida. In the Dedari version, the girls cannot have had their first menstruation and should be virgins. Confusion arises between Gobogan (festooned crown), with Gerobogan (waterfall), 'bok' is hair, and 'ngerobok' to wash one's hair.

*** Original Italian text ***

Sanghyang, la danza degli spiriti

Sanghyang è una danza sacra in cui gli spiriti entrano nel corpo dei danzatori portandogli a uno stato di trance. Questa forma d'arte risale all'antica culturale pre-hindu quando i balinesi credevano fortemente negli spiriti che, attraverso un medium danzatore in grado di compiere l'esorcismo, liberavano l'uomo dal male sconfiggendo le malattie manifestazioni del demonio. L a danza si esegue nel quito o sesto mese del calendario tradizionale balinese (novembre-dicembre gregoriano) ritenuto dai balinesi il periodo più vulnerabile in cui gli isolani sono facile preda di tutti tipi di malattie.

Sanghyang Grodogan

È un tipo di danza rarissima che si celebra soltanto nel villaggio di Lembongan, Klungkung. È una danza molto sacra a rischio di estinzione, l'ultima rappresentazione si è tenuta nel 1970, da allora senza motivo apparente, è stata quasi abbandonata. Si svolge in luoghi sacri come il cortile del tempio, di fronte al pubblico al bale banjar, sotto un grande albero di banyan, o altri luoghi scelti, nel secondo mese (sasih Karo) del tradizionale calendario balinese (all'incirca agosto). I balinesi credono che in questo mese l'equilibrio tra le forze positive e negative sia in pericolo. In questa forma si utilizza una miniatura della tradizione barca (Janggolan/Grodogan), dotata di una coppia di ruote in modo da poter essere spostata facilmente avanti e indietro, e decorata con tessuti, fiori, frutta, vegetali e offerte. Il Sanghyang Grodogan è una danza di trance di massa che richiede almeno 50 danzatori. I ballerini sono a torso nudo e indossano un semplice sarong corto senza nessun speciale accessorio, sono tutti volontari, maschi senza nessun altro requisito se non la purificazione prima della cerimonia. Anche qui entrano in trance con il fumo d'incenso e sono accompagnati dal coro Sanghyang delle donne.


  • Anonymous - Sanghyang. La Danza degli spiriti, in: 'Buongiorno Bali', October 2009, p.18-19 (loosely translated from Italian, by the author)
  • Spies, Walter & Beryl de Zoete - Dance & Drama in Bali, Periplus 1938/2002, p.67-80
  • interview by the author with Ida Bagus Sidemen, October 2009

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