Join Date: May 2006
On a keris the Singo Barong can be understood as generally protective. However there are a lot of ways in which this symbolism can be understood.
The word "barong" is understood in Bali as a generic term for a masked figure, and there are many forms of masked figures and more than one way of understanding the idea of "masked". In an abstract sense the word "barong" is understood as a positive force of nature that can work against evil spirits and is usually embodied in an animal.
The most common barong is the Barong Keket, usually abbreviated in speech to Ket : "Barong Ket". This is used as the mask for performance that very possibly has a relationship with the Chinese Lion Dance. A Chinese Lion dance was performed on the South Bali Coast in the 13th century.
If we look at Harsrinuksmo he draws a line from the Singo Barong to the Kilin/Qilin/Kirin. In Jawa the Singo Barong is also known as the Naga Singa, and disparagingly as Kikik (a little long haired dog).
Then we have the temple guardian figures that stand outside temples all over South East Asia and have a number of names depending on the place where they are found.
In Bali the sarcophagus to which a member of the K'satriya caste is entitled is in the form of a winged lion, and many people associate the Keris Singo Barong with the K'satriya caste.
The Singo Barong that we see on a keris almost never has the wings that are associated with the Balinese Singo Barong that is incorporated as a protective device in architecture, and the Singo Barong is also found in Javanese keris, an indication that the roots of the Singo Barong symbolism stretch back into the Hindu-Buda era of Jawa and were transported to Bali with the new arrivals from Mojopahit at the beginning of Islamic domination in Jawa.
There are many strands that relate to the symbolism of the Singo Barong in the keris, it is perhaps wise to regard it as a generally protective device, unless, of course, one wishes to enjoy the lengthy and difficult research of the Singo Barong figure that is specific to the keris.
The understanding of symbolism in Jawa and Bali is not limited to only one understanding, there seems to be an overarching philosophy that the more ways in which something can be understood, the better, and this is not limited to only symbolism, and at least in the case of Jawa, it permeates society as a whole.