An eclipse is a natural but sometimes frightening event, whose ancient explanation is found in myths around the world. In Bali, the eclipse is often depicted in traditional art in the story of Kala Rau. A demonic head is seen devouring the sun or the moon.

The story goes like this.

Long, long ago the Gods and the Asura (evil giants) struggled to possess the magical elixir called Tirta Amerta, the water of immortality. With the help of the God Wisnu, they stirred the cosmic ocean of milk with the holy mountain Mandara Giri.

The God Wisnu transformed into giant tortoise to hold the mountain on his back, held in place by the dragon Naga Basuki. With the stirring of the ocean of milk, gold, diamonds, and many other treasures came out, and were owned by the Gods; but the Tirta Amerta was captured by the Asura.

A great battle broke out as the Gods tried to reclaim the Tirta Amerta. It ended with the victory of the Gods. As they celebrated, they drank the water of immortality.

But there was one giant, Kala Rau, who disguised himself as a god and managed to drink a bit of the Tirta Amerta. Just as he was beginning to drink, his disguise was discovered by the gods of the Sun and the Moon. They shouted, and God Wisnu grabbed the cup and cut of Kala Rau’s head. Because he had swallowed some of the Tirta Amerta, the head of Kala Rau remained alive, but his body was destroyed.

Kala Rau remained furious with the gods of the Sun and the Moon, and he vowed to pursue them forever and swallow them. Sometimes he succeeds in catching one or the other, and when this happens, a solar eclipse or lunar eclipse occurs.