The witch Rangda

approx. 1800-1900

Asian Art Museum

Asian Art Museum
San Francisco, United States

To those familiar with Balinese culture, this figure immediately evokes Rangda, a powerful, frightening widow and witch associated with the invincible Hindu goddess Durga.

A close examination of the statue suggests it represents a different character. The figure’s hair is black and her breasts are not pendulous, indicating a younger person than the widow. At the base of the statue, letters in faded Balinese script faintly spell out the word “Rarung,” the name of Rangda’s apprentice, who is sometimes called her daughter.

Rarung stands in a posture common to Balinese dance: knees half-bent and slightly splayed, elbows raised to shoulder height. Matted hair, bulging eyes, and prominent fangs indicate her fierce nature.

Her teacher, Rangda, is considered queen of dangerous practitioners of black magic, called leyak, that roam the graveyards. Tourist literature describes Rangda as the epitome of evil, who brings illness, destruction, and death, but Balinese interpretations are more nuanced. Rangda, and by extension this figure Rarung, are powerful beings capable of both benevolence and malevolence.


  • Title: The witch Rangda
  • Date Created: approx. 1800-1900
  • Location Created: Indonesia; Bali
  • Physical Dimensions: H. 59.7 cm x W. 41.9 cm x D. 25.4 cm (overall)
  • Type: Sculpture
  • Medium: Painted wood
  • Credit Line: Gift of Thomas Murray in memory of his father Eugene T. Murray, 2000.37

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