At the beginning of 7th century,
a Balinese prince become the king of Java, the great Erlangga. His mother,
Mahendradatta, was a Javanese princess who ruled Bali with her Balinese
husband, Dharmodayana, until the husband, suspecting her of practising
evil magic, exiled her to the forest. When Erlangga’s father died, leaving
Mahendradatta as a rangda or a widow, she conspired to use her band of
pupils trained in the black arts to destroy Erlangga’s kingdom. Her chief
grudge against Erlangga because of fancied insults to her beautiful daughter,
Ratna Menggali – the noblemen of Daha had refused her in marriage for fear
of her mother’s evil reputation.
Arang (Erlangga’s mother who practising evil magic) went with her pupils
to the cemetery and they prayed and danced in honour of Begawati, the deity
of black magic, to help them destroy Daha. The goddes appeared and danced
with them, granting her permission, warning the witch, however, to preserve
the center of the kingdom untouched. The witches danced at the crossroads
and soon people fell in great numbers.
Discovering the cause of
the epidemic, Erlangga ordered his soldiers to go and kill the witch. They
stole into her house while she slept and stabbed her in the heart , but
Calon Arang awoke unhurt and consumed the daring soldiers with her own
fire. The witch went once more into the cemetery and danced with her pupils,
dug out corpses, cutting them into pieces, eating the members, drinking
the blood, and wearing the entrails as necklaces. Begawati appeared again
and joined in the bloody banquet, but warned Calon Arang to be careful.
The witches danced once more at the crossroads and the dreadful epidemic
ravaged the land, the vassals of Erlangga died before they could even bury
the corpses they bore to the cemeteries.
The desperate king sent for
Mpu Bharada, the holy man from Lemah Tulis, the only living being who could
vanquish the witch. Mpu Bharada planned his campaign carefully. He sent
Bahula, his young assistant, to ask for the witch daughter’s in marriage.
Highly flattered, the mother gave her consent and after a happy and passionate
honeymoon, Bahula learned from his wife the secret of Calon Arang’s power.
The possession of a little magic book which he stole and turned over to
his master. The holy man copied it and had it returned before the disappearance
could be noticed. The book was a manual of righteousness and had to be
read backwards. The holy man was then able to restore life to those victims
whose bodies had not yet decayed. Armed with the new knowledge, he
accused the witch of her crimes, but she challenged him by setting an enormous
Banyan tree on fire by a single look of her fiery eyes. Bharada foiled
the enraged witch by restoring the tree, and she turned her fire against
the holy man. Unmoved, he killed her with one of her own mantras, but she
died in her monstrous form and Bharada, to absolve her of her crimes and
enable her to atone for them, revived her, gave her human appearance, and
then killed her again.