Calonarang Dance refers to the struggle between Rangda (Calonarang) and the great king Airlangga. Calonarang was a widow of Girah who gave birth to a daughter in the jungle. Her daughter grew up to be the famed beauty Ratna Menggali. Calonarang wanted her daughter to marry a prince from Airlangga’s palace. However, no prince came along. Infuriated by this, Calonarang learned the art of black magic and practiced it against the kingdom, causing many people to die.
When the king Airlangga heard of the epidemic in Girah, he consulted his high priest, Mpu Bharadah. The priest then sent his son to propose Ratna Menggali. Calonarang was pleased, the curse ended, and the couple wed. Calonarang inscribed her black magic secret on a lontar (palmleaf book). One day, her son-in-law found it and gave it to his father. When Calonarang found out that Mpu Bharadah had learned her secrets, she was furious and declared war upon him.
The priest had no choice but to fight and, in a deadly struggle, destroyed the widow by casting a spell. Before she died, Calonarang asked forgiveness. Mpu Bharadah forgave her and showed her the way to heaven. Before Calonarang Dance is performed by midnight, the audiences are gathered, listening to the Calonarang music, played by a full legong orchestra amplified with large bamboo flutes.
Offerings are made earlier and consultations are held so as not to offend Rangda (Calonarang) and to determine whether it is safe to perform the dance which begins after midnight and lasts until dawn.