Bali Island

Balinese Opera, Arja Dance

arja dance
Ig by @rripro1denpasar

Arja Dance

Bali is not only about the Kecak dance, but many other dances as well, such as the Legong, Pendet, Sang Hyang, Baris dances, and many others.

Have you ever heard of dance-dramatic performances in Bali? It’s a kind of opera, but distinctly Balinese. The name Arja Dance, this time we will review the origin of this dance. Check out our review!

Arja Dance

In a sense, Arja means a kind of Balinese opera, which is a dance drama whose dialogue is developed in a macapat manner. Dramatari Arja is one of the arts that is very popular among the people. The name Arja is thought to have come from the Sanskrit word Reja, which means “beauty.” Wikipedia

Macapat is a classical Balinese or Old Javanese (Kawi) poem. This dance is performed by actors who dance, dialogue, and sing to the accompaniment of traditional Balinese music.

The Origin of the Arja Bali Dance

arja dance
Ig by @disbud_denpasar

Around 1825, Arja appeared during the reign of I Dewa Agung Sakti at Puri Klungkung, Bali.

In the 20th century, when Arja Muani appeared, all of the actors were male and some played women. Arja was greeted with great enthusiasm by the public, especially because it presents fresh comedy.

Dramatari Arja was first performed in pelebon (Ngaben ceremony for kings and nobles) by I Dewa Agung Gede Kusamba (son of King Klungkung).

At that time, the Balinese dance drama art was used to satirize Empress I Dewa Agung Gede Kusamba, who refused to do geni docking.

The empress’s actions were considered inappropriate and very embarrassing for the Balinese ruling elite at that time because of a form of disloyalty.

So as a form of satire on the empress’s disloyalty, the King of Gianyar (I Dewa Agung Manggis) and Raja Badung (I Dewa Agung Jambe) at that time, made Arja perform performing arts with the play “Kesayang Limbur.”

Development of Arja Dance

arja dance
Ig by @sejarah.bangli

In its development, the Arja dance consists of three phases, including;

  • Arja Doyong (Arja without gamelan accompaniment, played by one person).
  • Arja Gaguntangan (who uses gamelan gaguntangan with more than one performer).
  • Arja Gede (which is performed by between 10 and 15 performers with the standard performance structure as it is today).

Balinese Arja Dance Clothing

arja dance
Ig by @vnotbaliphoto

The dancers of the Arja Bali Dance wear traditional Balinese clothing, from the make-up, clothing to the props used, which are very thick with Balinese nuances. For example, female dancers use crown decorations on their heads, and so on.

Arja Dance Musical Instruments

arja dance
Ig by @disbud_denpasar

In the show, this dance uses the accompaniment of gamelan Geguntangan and gamelan Gong Kebyar.

Storyline in Arja Dance

The main storyline in the Arja dance is the story of Panji (Malat), then a number of other stories were born, such as Bandasura, Pakang Raras, Linggar Petak, I Godogan, Cipta Kelangen, Made Umbara, Cilinaya, and Dempu Awang, which are widely known by the public.

The Arja dance also features folklore stories such as Jayaprana, Sampek Ingtai, Basur, and Cupak Grantang, as well as several plays based on the Mahabharata and Ramayana stories.

However, whatever the storyline of this dance drama performance art, the Arja dance always features the main characters, which include Inya, Galuh, Desak (Desak Rai), Limbur, Liku, Panasar, Mantri Manis, Mantri Buduh, and two pairs of punakawan or Panasar brothers. which consist of Punta and Kartala respectively.


The diversity of art that was born from the art of dance itself is so complex in Indonesian culture. As the younger generation, we should continue to preserve every art that was born from a culture so that it would not be consumed by the times.

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